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Love in the Workplace: Managing Personal Relationships

Undoubtedly the rise of social media has had an impact upon how many people meet their significant other but, the fact remains, many people still meet partners through work.  It’s not surprising really given the amount of time we spend at work but, for some employers, learning of a new office romance can leave them feeling on edge.  

Employers cannot, of course, ban personal relationships at work but, where these could possibly have a detrimental impact upon the workplace, certain steps can be taken to minimise any issues that may arise. Employers must be mindful of striking a balance between an employee’s right to a private life with the need to protect its business interests.  Here are some top tips for managing relationships at work.

1. Some employers do in fact have a relationships at work policy which requires staff to notify them of any relationship which develops with a colleague.  This can be a little intrusive so think carefully about whether you want to have such a policy in place and, if you do, make sure it only goes as far as is reasonable to protect the business.

2. Where you become aware of a relationship between colleagues and have concerns, informally speak to the individuals involved.  Acknowledge that you do not have a problem with the relationship but make it clear that it must not be allowed to interfere with work.

3. Consider the reporting lines of those colleagues who are in relationships.  A conflict of interest can easily arise if one of the individual’s reports to their partner.  Be wary of possible complaints from staff about favouritism or unfair treatment. You may wish to change the reporting lines or move one individual to another department if possible.

4. Be aware of the possibility of unwanted conduct.  One employee’s feelings may not be reciprocated by the other and unwanted advances will, almost always, amount to harassment.  Ensure you have an anti-bullying and harassment policy in place so employees know to whom and how to report their concerns.

5. Inevitably, not all workplace romances will run smoothly and the break down in a relationship may lead to inappropriate behaviour by one of the individual’s concerned.  This should be addressed without delay, usually via your disciplinary procedure.

6. Ensure you take disciplinary action for inappropriate behaviour.  Remember, employers are entitled to expect a certain standard of behaviour during working time and on company premises.  Whether it is unwanted advances or employees being caught in a compromising position, ensure you take appropriate action. 

7. Handle any discussions about a relationship at work sensitively.  Not all relationships will interfere with work so don’t let a negative experience of one relationship at work influence how you treat a future relationship you become aware of.

Here at SCE Solicitors, we are experts in helping businesses manage their employment employees.  If you would discuss relationships at work, or any other issues arising with your staff, please contact me on 01133 50 40 30 or at hello@scesolicitors.co.uk.

SCE Solicitors is a boutique employment law and dispute resolution practice based in Leeds which advises clients nationwide.  Please note that the information in this blog is to provide information of general interest in a summary manner and should not be construed as individual legal advice. Readers should consult with SCE Solicitors or other professional counsel before acting on the information contained here. 

Samira Cakali

Samira Cakali is a pragmatic and approachable solicitor advocate with extensive contentious and non-contentious experience in the fields of employment law as well as civil litigation, within a range of commercial businesses from SME’s to multinationals as well as senior executives.

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