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workplace relationship

Over-priced roses and calorific chocolates all point to one thing in February, Valentine’s Day!

As employees spend a substantial amount of their lives at work, it is not surprising that Forbes reported that over 60% of adults have had a workplace romance.

With roses on order and chocolates on speed dial, HR advisors may be wise to consider the benefits of a Workplace Relationship policy.

Office relationships

UK employees are entitled to a private life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. There is no right for employers to know about an employee’s private life however employers should give careful consideration to the management of workplace romance if the relationships could impact the business.

Romantic office relationships can sometimes lead to:

  • Concerns of favouritism
  • Conflict of interest
  • Sexual harassment claims
  • Poor productivity
  • Confidentiality breaches

Relationship at Work policy

Whilst employers should not place undue restrictions on employees dating and break-ups are not inevitable, Relationship at Work Policies setting out standards of acceptable behaviour can avoid awkwardness and possible problems in the workplace.

These policies should be carefully and respectfully implemented to manage an employee’s right to privacy and avoid discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

The goal should not be to interfere with romance and force disclosures but to protect and safeguard against possible risks impacting the business and staff.

Benefits of a Relationship at Work policy:

  • Mitigate issues around conflict of interest
  • Prevent mistreatment and discrimination of employees as a result of relationship break-up
  • Highlight the adherence to the anti-harassment in the workplace
  • Protect the business from sexual harassment claims

As a workplace relationship is personal and can affect team cohesion, it is highly important that these policies are explained clearly to employees and not hidden away in a handbook.

Policy elements may include:

  • Standards of acceptable behaviour at work
  • Reminder of obligation of confidentiality
  • Reminders of existing equality and diversity policies
  • Management guidelines and responsibilities
  • Dealing with grievances

Sexual Harassment

Employers may also consider including training on handling romantic relationships and sexual harassment in the workplace. Whilst having an admirer can be a good confidence boost. Unrequited love can lead to possible claims of harassment in the workplace.

The Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill will impose a new duty on employers to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, from 27 October 2024.

Additionally, the Employment Tribunal will have the power to uplift sexual harassment compensation by 25% if an employer has been found to breach their duty.

Therefore it is important for employers to review their current policies and workplace culture to ensure staff are not at risk.

We can help draft no-jargon policies that enable employers to handle workplace relationships with care and provide training to handle these difficult situations confidently and fairly.

For advice on the legal and HR guidance please contact us on 0333 888 1360 or complete the enquiry form and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

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