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Relationships at Work

3.01.2018

Much is written in the pre and post Christmas season about inappropriate relationships and behaviour at work, but what about those relationships that are consensual and ongoing.

Many people meet their life partner in the work place and there are no general legal rules preventing or governing relationships at work. However, the collision between these two worlds of private and public can be problematic from a management perspective and there are a number of concerns for employers.

If this is something which has or is likely to affect your organisation you may want to consider having a policy in place to regulate such relationships. 

The key issue that needs to be addressed in this policy is defining what is a personal relationship, keeping it wide but not impractically so. 

Employers will also want to respect the right of their staff to a private life, consequently it might not be proportionate to have an outright ban on romantic involvement. 

It is however key that employers are made aware of any relationships so that they can make proportionate changes, like changing reporting lines and avoiding conflicts of interest.

Employers might like to also consider areas where personal relationships could present a legitimate management concern such as issues relating to discrimination and harassment, potential conflicts of interest between those managing others, and actual or perceived bias in recruitment or where one has the ability to impact on the pay of their partner.

It is important that management deals in an even-handed manner with both partners so as not to give rise to a claim of sexual discrimination, and considers same sex relationships in a similar way to opposite sex relationships. Where those in the personal relationship are in the same team or in a subordinate work relationship it is important to ensure that the policy refers to everybody conducting themselves in a professional manner at work at all times and stating that any failure to achieve this could be a disciplinary matter.

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