When a romance has been formed in the workplace, it can be difficult for the employer to put an end to it. The Human Rights Act 1998 states that everyone has the right to respect for their private and family life subject to a few limited exceptions.
We have looked at 5 potential problems that could arise from workplace romances and how to prevent these problems from occurring in the first place.
Policies on workplace romances
Employers should take a proactive approach towards office romances by having a policy that sets out guidelines for workplace dating – before problems occur. These policies should be clearly communicated to all members of staff.
Most employers will be ok with two colleagues having a relationship as long as this does not affect their work responsibilities. However, it is important to note that relationships between two parties where one has managerial authority over the other is likely to be frowned upon.
Conduct in the workplace
This policy should be used to define what conduct will be viewed as appropriate/inappropriate and what will result in disciplinary action.
A ban could be included within this policy on “intimate behaviour” during working hours. For example, kissing, holding hands etc.
One rule for all
As with all workplace policies, the rules should be applied consistently throughout the workforce, including senior members of staff. Rules set out in the policy should be applied to whatever the couples protected characteristics may be under the Equality Act 2010. For example, rules should not be more enforced to a same sex couple than they are to a heterosexual couple. This would be a clear case of sexual orientation discrimination.
When the relationship turns sour
In the event that two colleagues break up, employers may feel it would be appropriate to have a rule within its policy that requires employees in a personal relationship to inform their line manager if the relationship status changes. For example, if the two parties break up.
This would provide employers and managers with a good opportunity to address potential problems early on and remind employees of the behaviour that will be expected of them.
Workplace dating: romantic gesture or sexual harassment?
Employees with romantic feelings towards a colleague may wonder if asking them out would be viewed as sexual harassment?
As with many employment law questions, the answer is “it depends.”
The Employment Tribunal when deciding a sexual harassment complaint will always look at the context of the case.
For example, an employee asks out a colleague – the colleague declines – the employee accepts this rejection and does not push any further. A sexual harassment allegation in this case would probably not stick.
However, an employee could have a valid claim for sexual harassment if the colleague persisted after the employee made their feelings clear.
How can EmployEasily Legal Services help?
If you are an employer who requires assistance with any of the issues raised in this blog contact us today for your free consultation 0370 218 5662.