Roses are Red, Violets are Blue, I’ve got a Sexual Harassment Claim for You…

With Valentines Day fast approaching it is not uncommon to see love in the air in the workplace. Although we’re not wanting to poop on anyone’s parade and block these romances it can cause problems at work for employers. It’s best to set the scene and make it clear what is and isn’t acceptable. Here are our top tips for dealing with Romance at Work:

Develop a workplace relationship policy – If your company doesn’t already have one, think about introducing a Personal Relationships at Work policy. The policy should strike a balance between employees’ right to a private life and your right to protect your business and your employees.

Ensure in your policy it is clear about whether individuals need to inform the business of relationships, whether or not relationships between specific people is not allowed (i.e. manager and employee) and/or the consequences if things go wrong – unfortunately not every romance that starts in the workplace ends in happily ever after!

Ensure your email and communications policy is up to date – remind employees that you can and do monitor email use and in most cases although minimal personal use is allowed they shouldn’t be used to be sending secret love letters and or arranging rendezvous’ by the photocopier!

Provide Training – consider whether training to support your management team in dealing with romance in the workplace is suitable. The ultimate aim is to ensure managers feel comfortable discreetly managing employees who may be affected by a workplace relationship. For example, managers might have to deal with unacceptable behaviours between the two parties, reduced productivity or raising concerns in relation to them currently being the office gossip. As in many areas within HR preparation is the key.

Address sexual harassment – there is often a thin line between a work romance and possible sexual harassment.  Harassment in general terms means unwanted and unwelcome conduct which an individual may find offensive, which causes him or her to feel threatened, humiliated or harassed and creates an intimidating, hostile or humiliating work environment for the individual. It is about how it is received – not perceived by the person giving the attention. Any inappropriate or unwanted behaviour should not be accepted. The company’s policy on harassment should be referred to and communicated regularly as well as training for all staff.

Ensure everyone is treated equally – if a romance does blossom ensure that everyone involved is treated fairly and issues are handled with care and sensitivity. Remember it is unlawful to treat men and women differently because of their sex. So, whilst it might seem like the only option is to move a female manager as she is having a relationship with her junior male supervisor it could leave to a claim of sex discrimination claim. Ensure policies and procedures are in place and executed carefully.

As I say I don’t want to stop relationships at work – happy employees are more productivity and what better than some love to make someone happy and productive but it is important that you and your employees are aware of the issues that could arise.

If you find you are having to deal with the romance of the century gone wrong, or you need to ensure you have the right policies in place give us a call on 01903 868502 or send us a message on theresa@cooperativehr.co.uk.

If everything is in place though make sure you enjoy your Valentine’s Day

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