Love & the workplace – Happy Valentine’s day!

Valentine’s day is round the corner and there is no better time to address love issues and how matters of the heart may affect the workplace. It is a well-known fact that many relationships start at the workplace and you often encounter couples who actually got married after meeting at work. It is expected that love blossoms at work however this can be challenging for employers, in particular if there is a break up or there are issues in the relationship.

If a relationship is consensual then this does not constitute sexual discrimination or harassment even if a relationship is between a line manager and someone who reports to him/her. However these relationships between employees can surely be problematic for employers as a good relationship which goes bad comes with risks and an example of this is when there are harassment claims after a relationship has failed. Here we remind you of the importance to have a sexual harassment policy in place. Favoritism is also a great concern for employers as this may mean that the employee getting preferential treatment gets away with discipline whilst other employees get disciplined for the same misconduct.

Pillow talk is also another headache for employers as confidential information may be passed on between employees in a relationship. This could potentially

mean that an employee breached his/her confidentiality obligations and disciplinary action may be a step an employer should consider. Another serious issue an employer may face if one of the employees leaves and goes to work for a competitor however it may be difficult to justify disciplinary action against the remaining employee because of a possibility of pillow talk.

It is not all doom and gloom as good relationships can actually have a positive impact and employees in such relationships may be happier and more productive.

So what should you do? You may choose to have a policy on relationships at work. Although employers are not able to stop these relationships it is important to strike a balance between employees’ right to their private life and the employer’s right to protect its business interests. By way of example in your policy you may wish to stress that employees must not allow their personal relationship with another employee have an impact on their conduct at work. Furthermore managers may be given guidelines on how to manage personal relationships at work.