14 February 2017 #Employment
Most of us are likely to be spending Valentine’s Day at work and, although many people will be separated from their partners, those looking for love may not need to look any further than across the office or shop floor. Whilst good working relationships are important for a successful business, it is not uncommon for these relationships to stray beyond the boundaries of a professional working relationship and into the realms of romance.
As common as it is to find love in the workplace, employers are wise to reconsider their existing policies and/or introduce policies that will protect their businesses from any potential disputes that may stem from workplace relationships. Issues that can arise include breaches of confidentiality (particularly if one of the individuals is in a greater position of power), complaints of favouritism, decreased morale, bullying, sexual discrimination, sexual harassment and constructive dismissal, all of which could have a negative impact in the workplace.
Without a relevant policy or rules in place, the existence of a workplace relationship in itself is no reason to discipline or dismiss the employees involved. It may be, however, that inappropriate behavior connected to the relationship is. It is therefore important that employees understand what behavior is expected of them.
A blanket ban on workplace relationships is unrealistic and also difficult to enforce. The key is how relationships are handled and, if clear guidance or policies with boundaries are set, then certain situations can be prevented. Any such policy needs to balance an employee’s right to a private life against the employer’s right to protect its business interests.