In a relationship with a colleague? Should you tell your boss? | Moorepay
December 16, 2023

In a relationship with a colleague? Should you tell your boss?

It’s a well-known fact that many romantic relationships start at work, with some leading to long-term relationships and marriage.

We’re now starting the new year, and you may find that colleagues become closer and romantic relationships may follow. If this were to happen, would you expect the colleagues involved to tell you or your HR department?

Following the recent departure of Philip Schofield from ITV, apparently ITV has issued new rules on relationships. However, according to the Sunday Times, their new rules go beyond romantic relationships, “requiring their workers to disclose sexual, romantic or close friendships (whether short or long term).” Both parties are expected to disclose their relationship – if they don’t, they could face disciplinary action or they could even lose their jobs.

Clearly this is a step too far, not only taking it to the ‘nth degree, but would be likely to cause their workers to avoid getting close to their colleagues. Plus, looking at this from a legal perspective, the possibility of breaching data protection regulations if you have to log each relationship or friendship could be a nightmare in the making.

One thing which doesn’t seem to have been considered is that friendships build trust which leads to better performance and better rapport between colleagues, making the workplace a nicer place to be, especially as we spend such a huge amount of time at work.

Yes, it’s sensible to have a policy, but if you want to retain the trust of your employees, then you should think carefully about how your policy is going to impact the workforce. Each case should be treated fairly and handled with sensitivity, especially if the relationship ends.

There’s no problem with asking your employees to report a relationship where there could be a conflict of interest, such as a manager having a relationship with one of their team, but if this is seen to be that they are doing something wrong, then it’s likely that it would not be reported, and the relationship will be kept secret if possible.

Clearly, you would need certain rules to be in place in regard to the conduct and behaviour of both parties whilst at work.

The problems with a workplace romance could start where the relationship goes wrong but remember that not all relationships end in conflict. However, should this be the case you should have something in place, which is clear and transparent, so that everyone knows what would happen in such circumstances.

In such a situation, it’s likely that steps would need to be taken to resolve any differences or conflicts which may occur.

So, do you have anything in your handbook about relationships at work?

If not, and you feel that this would be something which you would like to add, contact our Policy Team on 03450 730240 – option 3, or email us at policy.team@moorepay.co.uk

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Elaine Prichard
About the author

Elaine Pritchard

Elaine has a wealth of knowledge in producing contracts, training materials and other documentation as well as training other consultants. She piloted a scheme whereby she went on-site to act as a client’s HR Manager two days per week, whilst the post-holder was on maternity leave. Elaine also previously ran her own retail business for seven years, employing four people. Elaine is a field based consultant for Moorepay and provides on-site HR and Employment Law advice, consultancy and training services to our clients.