As we enter February (the most romantic month of the year), Gorvins’ employment team thought it only right that they provide some guidance on workplace relationships. Whilst love may be all you need; from an employer’s perspective it can be the last thing they need causing added complications and difficult team dynamics. So, as an early Valentine’s gift here are some tips from us:

Have a well-drafted relationships at work and sexual harassment policy

Lawyers and HR professionals are forever going on about having policies and procedures in place. However, this is for good reason – such policies can act as a defence for employers should problems arise in the future, IF they are properly drafted and implemented. It is important for such a policies to make it clear what is and is not acceptable in the workplace, for instance that the relationship should not affect their work, and that there should be no favouritism or abuse of authority.

Train Managers on policies and procedures

In order to make any policy effective and support a meaningful defence to a claim, it should be brought to the attention of all staff and in particular managers, who should receive accompanying training. Unfortunately, it is when romantic relationships come to an end that matters can really escalate in the workplace and legal advice may need to be sought.

A reminder to staff of what is deemed acceptable in the workplace

This can involve pointing staff in the direction of the workplace policy. On the special day itself, employers may even wish to encourage staff to exchange gifts and cards outside of the workplace in their personal time. Romantic gestures in the workplace can lead to claims of sexual harassment, and the giving of a Valentine’s card or gift can lead to such allegations being made when they are unwanted and cause embarrassment.

That said, staff morale is also important so the 14th February may be a good opportunity to organise Valentines themed activities for employees and even allow an early finish so they can spend extra time with their special someone.

Ask employees to disclose their workplace relationships

There are generally no legal rules that govern workplace relationships. If an employer sought to put a blanket ban on workplace relationships altogether this may be unrealistic and give rise to the accusation that this interferes with their right to a private life. However, many employers require employees to disclose to them when they are in a romantic relationship with a colleague (and if it ends). This gives employers the chance to get ahead of potential issues such as changing reporting lines and making it clear on a one-on-one basis the standard of behaviour expected – such as no public displays of affection in the office!

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