Relationships at work

Posted 07/11/2019 : By: Kathryn Pratt

Statistics show that a quarter of employees meet their long-term partners at work and as we spend a lot of our time at work, this is not surprising. While workplace relationships can work perfectly fine, it’s important to view each scenario on a case by case basis to ensure the business and its employees are protected.

Following recent news where Steve Easterbrook was exited as the British CEO of McDonalds for engaging in a personal relationship with another member of staff, it’s worth having a look at your policies to see what they say about relationships at work, or putting something in place if you don’t have anything.

Where two members of staff who are in a romantic relationship work together in circumstances where one has managerial authority over the other, various difficulties could arise, such as:

  • conflicts of interest - the manager might find it difficult to carry out an objective appraisal
  • perceived or actual favouritism in relation to matters such as holiday approval, allocation of overtime, promotion
  • perceived or actual victimisation if the relationship breaks down
  • the risk of the inadvertent or deliberate disclosure of confidential information.

So, whilst it’s important to have a flexible approach to relationships at work, employers should in turn have a relationships at work policy in place so that all staff are aware of how these situations are dealt with in their own organisations. Employers should ensure that their harassment and grievance policies are robust and that any complaints are followed up.

Things to consider in a relationship at work policy:

  • it’s not against the law to have a relationship at work
  • consider whether the relationship would have any direct impact on the business
  • personal relationships should be declared to management and in the cases of a conflict of interest, action can be taken to restructure or move employees to different areas of the business to avoid the risk of breaking the boundary of professionalism between co-workers
  • everyone is entitled to a private life and a ban of all personal relationships is not realistic, you could end up with a tribunal claim on your hands. 

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