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Bad Romance?: How to address relationships in the workplace

The subject of many a Rom-com, romance in the workplace is not a new phenomenon in the world of work. In fact, couples who meet at work are most likely to marry - this is unsurprising, as many of us may spend more time with our work colleagues than we do our families across the working week.

However, there are some important pointers to remember when dealing with workplace relationships. From favouritism to fall-outs, this blog post will run down on some of the most common issues and how to address them.


Workplace romances may prove a minefield if they involve relationships between supervisors and subordinates in the chain of command. It is important, as a business owner, to prevent any accusations of favouritism within the workplace to avoid grievances. It may be important to communicate to employees the risk of disciplinary action should any form of favouritism occur in order to maintain team morale.


Relationship fall-outs can be considered another common issue that may pose difficulty within the workplace. Arguments that occur within the workplace may reduce morale and breed gossip among co-workers. Therefore, it is important to manage working relationships correctly in order to prevent this and to minimise conflict between couples.


Whereas flirting may be considered harmless and acceptable by some, if it is persistent and unrequited it may constitute sexual harassment in the workplace. Therefore, it is important to communicate to employees what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour within the Code of Conduct with a clear disciplinary process should this Code be violated.

Favouritism, fall-outs and flirting are three of the most common issues within workplace romances. It is important to remember that any steps taken to manage personal relationships at work should be fair and not discrimination.

Here are some measures to consider having in place to manage workplace relationships effectively:

· Require your workforce to report any personal relationships so that the business is able to take appropriate steps to manage these relationships at work.

· Consider using an employee declaration form so both members of the couple can agree that they will uphold the business’ Code of Conduct within their relationship at work.

· Employees involved in recruitment who have a personal relationship with a job applicant should not be involved in the selection process.

· Where a personal relationship exists between a manager and an employee, consider an alternative line manager or transferring the employee to a suitable alternative role.

· Ensure the business has an Anti-harassment policy in place to minimise the risk of sexual harassment at work.

· Consider referring employees to the disciplinary process if: performance deteriorates as a result of a relationship at work; employees act unprofessionally due to a relationship at work; favouritism is taking place, for example in promotion opportunities or scheduling, as a result of the relationship; or arguments between couples result in uncomfortable working conditions.

These are just a few methods to manage romance in the workplace. While many couples work together successfully, even getting married in the process, it is important to consider all eventualities to safeguard your business against any risks from workplace relationships turning sour.

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