My wonderful Senior HR Consultant, Louise Angell, recently discussed the implications of personal relationships at work and how to manage them. It was so good, it seemed a shame not to share with you all…..
Did you know that once the love bubble bursts at work it could lead to a harassment claim or unfair dismissal claim?
Who’d have thought that two people having a personal relationship at work could cause so much trouble? However, we are seeing more and more grievances being raised that relate to personal relationships that happen in or around the workplace (including work events).
The workplace is no longer where you just go to work. Many people regard their work as an extension of their social circle often making friends for life, hobby friends, night-out friends, sporting friends, meeting new life partners or even just one-night-only friends. Either way, when personal relationships enter our workplaces, it can be troublesome.
Managing the fallout from a failed personal relationship at work can be very stressful and time-consuming for both employee and employer. It can often lead to long-term sickness, a negative impact on staff morale, many investigation meetings, and disciplinary and grievance meetings.
Imagine this, a once stable and happy personal relationship in the workplace ends and both parties must continue working together. What if one side or even both find the other intolerable to work with? Or what if one party doesn’t want to let the relationship end and pursues the other party during work time? Would you know how to manage this?
Alternatively, if a work’s night out leads to a ‘one-night stand’. After going back to work, there may be a damaged relationship. One person may no longer be able to work with the other. Or maybe the one-night stand ended badly, and a grievance has been raised with a series of allegations made. As an employer, it is important to know how to manage this.
Personal relationships leading to risk of harassment and discrimination
Whilst you can use your grievance process to investigate a grievance and your disciplinary process to manage poor behaviour, are you aware of the hidden risks such as harassment and discrimination?
If you had a male and female whose relationship had broken down and one needed to be moved to a different department, you would need to decide who needs to move and based on what reason. If you were to move the male without good reason, he could have a claim for sex discrimination. As a result of the action, he may resign which makes way for a potential claim for constructive dismissal.
Or, one of the employees refuses to see the personal relationship is over and continues to bother the other in the workplace. This could be through sending them emails, texting or deliberately following them to the kitchen to try and talk to them. This is potentially harassment and bullying. Would your manager be able to identify this unwelcome behaviour and know how to deal with it? In addition, would the employee know whom to voice their concerns to?
Personal Relationship Policy
We recommend a Personal Relationship Policy. This is a written policy that will lay out clear expectations for employees and will help you manage any fallout. A policy like this would enable your managers to understand their responsibilities and role in managing personal relationships within their teams. The policy will also help them to navigate through any problems that may arise.
The main areas you need to include in a Personal Relationship Policy are:
- What your business defines as a Personal Relationship.
- Define expected behaviours, support available, and how to manage a break up at work.
- What the consequences are of breaching the policy.
- The best approach to managing Personal Relationships within teams and the workplace.
- How to manage and deal with unwanted and unwelcome personal contact once a relationship is over.
- The process for managers on how to deal with this situation.
What was once simply cupid getting it wrong has evolved into potentially expensive tribunal claims and settlement agreements for employers. Don’t let yourself get caught, be prepared and ready.