Love in the workplace: heartache for employers?

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As the nation has just participated in the annual lovefest that is Valentine’s Day, spare a thought for employers having to deal with the fall-out from the increasingly common office romance. On average, we are spending more of our lives at work so it is unsurprising that more people are having romantic relationships with work colleagues or working alongside their partners in the workplace, and this situation presents various legal concerns for employers.

There may be examples of romantic relationships leading to a positive impact on the working environment by increasing communication and teamwork. However, combining work with love can obviously lead to various management problems resulting from the collision between the private and public spheres.

For example, will relationships be a distraction from productivity not just for those involved but those working with the couple? Could a new relationship between colleagues lead to jealousies and affect the morale of their team? If there is a big difference in seniority between the couple is there a concern about the perception of others within and outside the organisation about whether this is appropriate? If partners are in the same team is there a real or perceived risk of unfair advantage when it comes to appraisals or promotions? Could the relationship give rise to a conflict of interest? In certain industries where the highest ethical standards are required, nepotism may be particularly frowned upon. How can the employer be sure that the individuals will maintain confidentiality if they are aware of business sensitive information?…

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