POSTED: February 10 2020
Work relationships, an HR headache?

Work relationships, an HR headache?

The 14th February is looming, it is that time of year again where advo hr gives some advice on how to handle relationships at work. 

With Valentine’s day fast approaching, it is important that employers know how to deal with relationships at work. Back in November 2019, McDonald’s fired their CEO for violating their policy for a relationship with an employee. This may be viewed as a strong reaction to what is a fact of working life and should not be something that businesses automatically consider an offence worth of dismissal, as this may be difficult to justify. In this case, the CEO was a very influential person with a high profile, which may be why the business reacted as strongly as they did.

Employers should clearly outline to employees what they expect from employees in relation to workplace romances. This may take the form of a policy, which explains that any romantic relationships that may cause concern or a conflict of interest for the business is disclosed to management or HR. Some examples may include

  • If a manager is in a relationship with a direct report;
  • If a relationship causes jealously and affects team morale;
  • If the relationship becomes a distraction for those involved and those working with the employees which negatively impacts productivity and quality of work;
  • If one person in the relationship is more senior and has access to sensitive business information and there is a potential confidentiality risk.

Employees also need to be aware of grievance and dignity at work policies to reinforce that any inappropriate behaviour or unwanted conduct will not be accepted. This may become an issue if a workplace relationship ends.

There is a need to attempt to balance the business needing to protect its own interests, but also balances the need for employees to have a private life. Therefore, it would be very difficult to enforce a ban on workplace relationships and may be seen, in extreme circumstances, to be an infringement of an employee’s human rights under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998.

If you do not have a policy on Personal Relationships at Work please do get in touch as we are able to supply you with a template, which can be inserted into your current staff handbook and communicated to employees.

advo hr is here to help with this or any other HR related topic. In the first instance drop an email to