Employment specialist The HR Dept is putting a word of warning out to all employers about the dangers of letting an office romance fester into an expensive employment tribunal. Colleagues can naturally become very close, particularly in smaller organisations. But how close is ‘too close’ and is it appropriate to include a ‘no dating’ policy or clause in the company handbook? It is not an employer’s place to set rules and regulations about how employees conduct their personal lives, however when it involves two members of staff who are caught up in romance, there can be a lot at stake. Romantic relationships in work can lead to a host of problems including claims of sexual discrimination and harassment following break ups, favouritism claims or resentment.
According to research conducted by illicitencounters.com 54% of those surveyed admitted to having engaged in workplace romance and 27% to more than one. We then address Valentine’s Day, a Hallmark holiday that often spells gender discrimination, sexual harassment as well as heartache and headaches.
The HR Dept comments: “We often hear horror stories about the fall out (and expense) that has resulted from an affair in work, as well as the offences caused by inappropriate emails or suggestive gifts. Problems are particularly magnified around Valentine’s Day. Employers cannot dictate an employee’s personal life by including a strict ‘no dating’ policy, however guidelines can naturally be implemented to avoid potential business heartache.”
The HR Dept is advising employers to adopt the approach that any personal relationships, other than company business, should be conducted outside of work hours and not on company premises. In large organisations, if a romantic relationship was to begin at work, this would need to be reported to the Human Resources Department and one or both individuals involved maybe transferred to another department. In smaller organisations however, this may not be possible. A smaller business shouldn’t be at the hands of its employees with regards to relationships in the workplace, but hopefully a common sense approach and guidelines to suit the business will suffice.
The HR Dept specialises in advising small and medium sized business on all employment issues. www.hrdept.co.uk