Workplace relationships: take precautions

Romance may be in the air as Valentine’s Day approaches but the Trades Union Congress (TUC) is warning small businesses to take a realistic view of workplace relationships.


Romance may be in the air as Valentine’s Day approaches but the Trades Union Congress (TUC) is warning small businesses to take a realistic view of workplace relationships.

Romance may be in the air as Valentine’s Day approaches but the Trades Union Congress (TUC) is warning small businesses to take a realistic view of workplace relationships.

With the amount of time Britons spend at work, it is not surprising that an estimated quarter of all long-term relationships are formed between colleagues.

Romantic relationships between employees have the potential to damage a business, either while the happy couple are still together or in the aftermath of a messy split. With this in mind, it’s understandable that employers may want to control or stop workplace liaisons.

However, the TUC has warned that American-style bans on relationships and so-called love contracts have no place in the UK, where workers have more legal protection over privacy and “rights to association” from the 1998 Human Rights Act.

To help employers deal with such a delicate issue, the TUC advises employers that they can develop HR policies specifically targeted at workplace relationships. But it stresses that there is a big difference between requiring staff to behave professionally at work and the more draconian banning of relationships.

Legally speaking, a relationship ban may be in contravention of the right to association, although no legal precedent has yet been set. However, an employee dismissed or disciplined under such a policy could well have grounds to go to an employment tribunal (see our article, All change for dispute rules, for more on this).

From a common-sense point of view, such an extreme measure would more than likely cause staff to keep relationships secret and possibly cause resentment towards the employer.

The TUC advise taking legal advice before putting in place any sort of relationship policy and has also published guidance on its website at www.worksmart.org.uk

(11/2/05)

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