Business couple having another dispute

Romance in the Workplace – Yay or nay?

Unsurprisingly, there is a wide range of useful information available to assist organisations in preventing and (should the need arise) addressing unwanted sexual advances, or indeed any type of inappropriate conduct in the workplace.  It therefore follows that many workplaces will already be equipped with relevant policies covering sexual harassment, and subsequent procedures to deal with such issues – at least to some extent. 

If your workplace is without such a policy, I would suggest that you make implementing one an immediate priority!

This is particularly important at the moment ,given the current spotlight on sexual harassment following the recent announcement by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins of the national inquiry into sexual harassment in Australian workplaces, which will focus on identifying examples of good practice and making recommendations for change.

But what about consensual, or reciprocated romantic relationships? Do you have a Relationships in the Workplace Policy covering those?  Have you considered whether this is even something that your workplace should have a policy on – or are you appalled by the suggestion?

Why you need a Relationships in the Workplace Policy

Whilst the idea of having such a policy in your workplace may initially conjure thoughts of intruding on the private lives of your employees (thus inherently defining it as a matter of no relevance to the workplace), the reality is that some romantic relationships do have the potential to impact on the workplace.

Below are a few relevant examples that I suggest taking into account when deciding if your organisation needs to implement a Relationships in the Workplace Policy:

  • If a co-worker were to witness inappropriate behaviour by a couple, it may lead to them feeling uncomfortable, and result in a sexual harassment claim;
  • Romance between a manager and their subordinate could be viewed as a conflict of interest, and could potentially give rise to favouritism.  Even where the manager does not exercise their power to the benefit of the subordinate, there may be a perceived bias given the relationship.  In turn, the relationship is likely to undermine the impartiality of all of the manager’s decisions; and
  • Whether the relationship is between a manager and their subordinate, or simply between two co-workers, questions relating to the productivity of those in the relationship (are likely to come in to question – whether justified or no).  This is particularly relevant if they participate in closed door meetings or discussions out of the ear shot of others, which may not be uncommon for other employees in the workplace, and had it not been for the romantic relationship would not be questioned.

What should your Relationships in the Workplace Policy look like?

It is important to remember that your overall objective should never be to intrude on the private lives of your employees – rather, the purpose of any ‘Workplace Relationship Policy’ should be to educate your employees on:

a) why you as the employer may need to know about the relationship; and
b) how the relationship can be managed in the best interests of all workplace stakeholders.

The above points should be made very clear in the opening of the policy.

Ideally, your Relationships in the Workplace Policy will also clearly state:

  • at what point your employees are required to disclose a relationship, with specific directions on who they are to disclose the relationship to;
  • that where applicable, and if considered appropriate, the confidential nature of the relationship will be maintained;
  • the possible consequences of failing to disclose the relationship when required (for example, any relevant disciplinary action);
  • examples of when the relationship may become a concern for the employer;
  • examples of when a conflict of interest may arise; 
  • examples of what measures may be put in place in order to address any employer concerns, or perceived conflicts of interest (e.g. changing reporting lines); and
  • examples of unacceptable behaviour/interactions between the couple (e.g. displays of public affection).

Given that some relationships may be more of a concern than others due to their likely impact on the workplace (typically, the more senior the employees are, the higher the chance of conflict, and in turn, the potential that it will impact the workplace), the best thing for your organisation to do is implement a policy that allows you to manage each relationship  that is brought to your attention on a case by case basis and not adopt a one size fits all approach for dealing with relationships.   

Coleman Greig Lawyers are experts in Employment Law & WHS. We can assist your business in navigating the complex area of romantic relationships in the workplace and help you put policies in place to mitigate any potential risks to your business.

As a White Ribbon Accredited Workplace, Coleman Greig Lawyers takes a zero-tolerance stance with regard to any and all forms of violence against women.  If you are concerned that you may be a victim of domestic violence, we urge you to seek help via the White Ribbon Australia website.

Share:

Send an enquiry

Any personal information you provide is collected pursuant to our Privacy Policy.

Categories
Archives
Author

More posts

Understanding roles in the strata scheme

A strata scheme is a building or group of buildings that have been divided into lots which can be apartments, villas, offices, units or townhouses. This will be articulated in the strata plan.

Can i put my home on Airbnb?

Airbnb is a form of short-term rental accommodation. To add your property to Airbnb in NSW, you are required to meet several laws and regulations governing short-term rentals.

When are liquidators required to seek approval to retain legal counsel?

When does a liquidator (or the company he or she is appointed to) need court, creditor, or committee approval to validly retain a solicitor to act in a liquidation matter which is likely to extend for longer than three months?  The answer to this question has only recently been settled.

Proposed changes to building and construction law in NSW

The Building Bill 2022 (the Bill) is the key avenue through which the NSW Government has proposed to reshape the culture of the building and construction industry by eliminating poor performance and improving the quality of building statewide.

Can you dismiss an employee who fails to return to the office?

Slowly but surely, most employers are requiring employees to return to the office for at least a portion of their working week. Some employers continue to struggle with employees resistant to returning to the office or those who have an expectation that they can continue to work from home whenever it suits them.

New powers to combat phoenixing in construction

The rise of phoenixing in the building and construction industry in Australia in recent years has proved a significant challenge to regulators. Mismanagement of time or cashflow can quickly propel businesses into insolvency.

The NSW Building Commission’s extraordinary powers

In late 2023, the NSW Government passed the Building Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 (Amendment Bill). The Amendment Bill established the NSW Building Commission and granted it extraordinary powers to enter construction sites, inspect work and take away information and materials.

© 2024 Coleman Greig Lawyers   |  Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation. ABN 73 125 176 230