In light of Valentine’s Day, the taboo topic of workplace relationships and the legality of restricting them, is a complex matter for employers.

A recent survey revealed an incredible 58% of employees have engaged in a romantic relationship with a colleague. This should be a wake-up call for employers to manage workplace attraction and ensure a sufficient policy is in place.

“A policy on workplace relationships which is clearly communicated to staff could save an employer a lot of stress and financial risk in the long run” says HR Team Director, Breda Cullen.

Almost half (41%) of employees did not know their company’s policy regarding office romance.

Many companies have strict policies against workplace relationships. McDonalds has adopted a zero-tolerance relationship policy when it comes to romance between senior management and employees. Last year, the company’s CEO Steve Easterbrook, was dismissed for having a consensual relationship with an employee. A statement by McDonalds said that Mr Easterbrook had “violated company policy” and “shown poor judgement”.

Should employers restrict a workplace relationship?

Potential litigation issues or conflicts of interest if a relationship turns sour are becoming an increasing risk for companies in light of the ‘Me Too’ movement.

Other factors to consider about romantic relationships between employees may be that staff are distracted – they may have more interest in each other than their work. For this reason, productivity can be affected.

However, employees can perceive restrictions as an invasion of privacy. Completely banning workplace relationships may also encourage employees to be dishonest and conceal the relationship. Employers must also be careful of discrimination claims, in particular, where same sex individuals are involved.

If you have any queries on how to approach the topic of relationships with employees, please get in touch. At HR Team we make sure your actions are legally compliant, and suggest an appropriate policy that fits the unique needs of your business.