Q&A: I’ve just found out two of my employees are in a relationship. What should I do?

Next up in our employment law series, we look at how to handle relationships in work so they don’t affect your business.

BrightHR Team

It’s Valentine’s Day, which means there might be cards and flowers flying around the workplace in the spirit of February 14th. But what do you do if an employee tells you they’re in a real relationship with a colleague?

We ask one of our employment law experts what you should do if you face this awkward HR dilemma.

Question:

One of my managers has made me aware that he’s begun a relationship with another employee, and I’m concerned this creates a conflict of interest when it comes to such things as promotions or performance reviews.

What can I do? Is it possible to ban workplace relationships?

Our HR’s expert’s answer:

Your employees have a right to a ‘private life’ under the Constitution and the European Convention of Human Rights. This includes being able to have personal relationships with who they want, meaning that having a relationship with a colleague shouldn’t be a sackable offence.

As a result, trying to place a ban on workplace relationships could land you in hot water. For starters, a ban would be difficult to enforce, and would likely result in secrecy surrounding relationships...

And if you did sack someone on the grounds of a personal relationship, you could find yourself facing a claim of unfair dismissal.

So banning relationships isn’t a good idea. Instead, create a workplace relationships policy. Most workplace relationship policies include two key elements:

  • All employees need to tell their manager of any relationship that could affect their work or compromise the business in any way.
  • If two employees are in a relationship, it might be necessary for them to work separately to avoid any potential conflict of interest.

In your situation, it appears your employee is trying to do the right thing by telling you about the relationship, so work with him to see if there’s a risk of a conflict of interest, and look at whether you need to make any changes at work.

Got a question of your own?

If you have a question about managing workplace relationships, speak to one of our friendly legal experts today.

Whether you need a quick answer to a niggling question or advice in an HR crisis, our advisers will give you confidential legal advice on any employment law problem you face, and they’re available 24/7.

Call BrightAdvice on 1800 279 841.