A recent US study reported that 10% of married couples meet as colleagues. With the amount of time spent in the office this number is unsurprising. However, office romances can cause problems for employers – this can range from a drop in productivity, to conflict of interest or a costly harassment claim.
As an employer, you must remember that it is not just the romantic and emotional relationships (spouses and friendships) that you need to be alert to. Platonic relationships can still cause conflicts: immediate family, other close relationships such as cousins and in-laws, or financial relationships between staff members and clients.
Your staff should carry out their duties to the best of their abilities and certify that they avoid any conflict of interest where possible. It is important that personal relationships do not influence business decisions and interactions with other staff or clients.
What are your duties as an employer?
It’s your responsibility to make sure conflict of interest does not arise out of relationships at work. Areas that are often affected include decision-making and the boundaries and the maintenance of confidential information. In particular, you need to make sure that there is no actual or perceived interference with procedures like recruitment, disciplinary processes and development opportunities. These processes must be done in a transparent fashion to avoid an accusation of favouritism. Get this wrong and you can be on the receiving end of a discrimination claim.
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