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HR Guide on Dealing with Workplace Relationships

Many of us spend most of our week with co-workers, so it may be considered no surprise that many romantic relationships begin at work. However, not all love tales end well, and professional relationships can occasionally lead to workplace issues and conflicts. Here we provide a HR Guide on dealing with workplace relationships.

In a recent report conducted by UK law firm Write Hassall, 2000 people were surveyed to find out how many had been involved in a relationship with a colleague or had romantic encounters with co-workers. It was found that a quarter of respondents admitted to having had a romantic encounter with somebody from work, and 15% confessed to having had a romantic encounter at a work event or party.

While an outright ban on workplace relationships could be considered a step too far, it is important that HR leaders put the right steps in place to manage and monitor relationships within the workforce. Here are our top pieces of advice for HR leaders wanting to ensure that workplace romances are handled properly:

Create a Workplace Relationship Policy

Implementing a dating policy within the workplace helps to protect your business and your employees. The policy should clearly set out expectations around disclosing any workplace relationship, and should define what constitutes harassment in the workplace.

Introducing a dating policy of this nature can aid in establishing an employer’s defence if a claim is ever made as a result of a workplace relationship turning toxic.

Train Management

To ensure your management team knows how to handle potentially sensitive situations, managers should be provided with the appropriate training. Managers must also be well informed on the company’s policy on workplace romances.

Employers should also encourage line managers to have more casual talks within their teams, to promote an open dialogue that will help ensure that any difficulties are addressed quickly and effectively. Employees should also be encouraged to inform HR of a workplace romance if this is stipulated in your policy.

Prohibit Public Displays of Affection

Policies prohibiting public displays of affection within the workplace are not uncommon, so introducing one is not out of the norm. PDAs can make co-workers feel uncomfortable at work, and if HR is made aware of these behaviours, they can intervene should this be the case.

Damage Control

Workplace romances that don’t work out can have a significant impact on the company and employees; it can lead to employees refusing to speak to one another, taking sides, or even handing in their notice.

Tensions between co-workers who have broken up should be addressed in the same manner as any other workplace conflict. Businesses expect their employees to remain civil and collaborate whilst at work, regardless of the issue or cause for separation.

If problems persist, HR can take action to ensure that tensions are not frayed in the workplace. This may include the restructure of a team, rearranging team training days to ensure there is no crossover between disputing employees, or offer employee mediation to reach a mutual understanding of the correct way to act in the workplace, including steps the employer can take so that the situation doesn’t escalate any further.

For more advice on how to handle colleague romances or how to implement workplace romance policies, please contact our expert HR team here

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