Boss dating employee law
When does a relationship at work need to be declared? We drum it into all our trainees that they represent a well-known professional accountancy firm both at work and in their downtime; particularly so if they’re in a social situation and have had a few drinks,” says Sarah Churchman, head of diversity and inclusion and employee wellbeing at the firm.How does an employer strike the right balance between respecting lovebirds’ privacy and protecting its business interests? Churchman dislikes the whole notion of US-style love contracts or “consensual relationship agreements”, because they intrude on private lives and, under UK law, offer scant protection against potential sexual harassment claims if an affair turns sour.
“A whole range of organisations are becoming very worried about office romances and if they could find a way of doing so, some would like to impose a blanket ban on the grounds that they are wholly inappropriate in a business environment,” says Farr.Termed “fraternisation” in the Enterprise staff handbook, the failure to divulge any relationship involving a manager and direct report is cause for demotion, transfer, resignation or other disciplinary action, including dismissal.Miller adds: “Our primary concern is that employees in a relationship cannot be in a reporting relationship – I might mention that this includes relatives as well.Sounds like a lot of HR execs take a hard line against bosses who date subordinates but don’t lock in policies to protect their companies.Let’s look at the surveys: Rather than dwell on the contradictions, let’s talk about the complexities of boss/subordinate dating. Employees who date bosses immediately fall into a "protected class," which means that any adverse action taken against them provides traction for a lawsuit. Romantic attraction is a powerful force that trumps good judgment in the best of us; if you ban boss/subordinate dating, most people will simply hide the relationship.“If it is left up to a third party to inform management of the relationship, this not only looks bad for the couple concerned, but it also makes management think there are more potential problems than perhaps there are,” she says.
“While I dislike the term ‘love contracts’, I believe that this sort of case comes under the heading of conflict of interest, which in other contexts, is quite clearly something that organisations will not allow.
But another survey showed that only one-third of companies have a policy to protect themselves from boss/subordinate liaisons.
And less than one in five actually forbid them outright.
Yet, in common with a growing number of organisations spanning everything from consumer goods to local government, Pw C makes it a condition of employment that any potentially serious office liaison – particularly one that involves a manager and a direct report – is officially disclosed and managed appropriately.
“You can’t legislate against office romances or indeed falling in love, and any outright ban would be totally unworkable,” says Churchman.
“Yet while employers dislike in-house affairs because they tend to get messy, the desire to manage personal relationships for the good of the business is incredibly complex, both legally and ethically.” Although organisations may opt for different strategies for dealing with workplace flings – some more draconian than others – no single approach is free from the risk either of a future sex discrimination or harassment claim, or possibly a privacy challenge under human rights legislation, she believes.