Are you allowed to have a relationship at work and what are your rights?

The Sun Finance 1 month ago

MANY of us spend more time at work than at home, meaning it’s common we’ll get close to colleagues.

But having a personal relationship with someone at work can cause problems, and some employers have policies on whether you can get intimate with a colleague.

Having a personal relationship with someone at work can cause problems

It comes after McDonald’s boss Steve Easterbrook was fired for breaking company rules by having a relationship with an employee.

The fast food chain said the 52-year-old British-born chief executive, who was paid £12million last year, had demonstrated poor judgement.

McDonald’s forbids bosses from having consensual romantic relationships with staff, regardless of whether they directly manage them.

In an email to employees, Easterbrook, who is recently divorced and has three children, acknowledged he had a relationship with an employee and said it was a mistake.

The news comes as research has earlier found that a third of Brits have had a relationship with a colleague at some point in their career.

But what are your rights? Below we explain everything you need to know.

Are you allowed to have a relationship at work?

The US has much stricter employment laws than than the UK – but it is up to your employer and its policy on relationships.

In the UK employees are generally allowed to get into a relationship with a colleague.

Most of the time it won’t create issues, meaning employers will have no reason to interfere, Rebecca Thornley-Gibson, partner at city law firm DMH Stallard, said.

Yet conflict issues could arise when one of the individuals is more senior than the other.

For example, if one individual is responsible for the other’s appraisals, pay reviews, promotion opportunities and even work allocation, then there is danger of favouritism, Ms Thornley-Gibson said.

This could lead to perceived bias from other team members.

Ms Thornley-Gibson added: “There may also be issues where the more junior employee feels as though they cannot say no to amorous advances.

“This creates a real risk of later sexual harassment claims against the manager and employer.

“Stopping relationships is not likely to be practical for employers but putting in place steps to minimise any fallout from the relationship should be considered.”

This could include having policies on conduct at work, equality and diversity policies with a clear zero tolerance towards sexual harassment.

Some employers may also require you to declare relationships which could result in a conflict.

If you’re worried about having a relationship with a colleague, check your contract and staff handbook and make sure you understand any specific policies in your company.

It’s important that you try to keep your love life separate from your work life as much as possible and to not let any problems with your partner spill over into work activities.

Can you get sacked for having a relationship at work?

You shouldn’t lose your job only for having a relationship with a colleague, said job advice app WorkSmart.

If you’ve been sacked just because of the affair, you can make a complaint of unfair dismissal to an employment tribunal on the GOV.UK website.

You’ll need to have been at the company for at least years though if you started after April 6 in 2012 though, or just one year if you joined before this date.

It is unlawful for employers to treat women or men less favourably because of their sex.

So, if only one of you is being asked to leave because of the affair, you may also have grounds for a discrimination claim, regardless of how long you have worked for your employer.

Meanwhile, the rise of dating apps such as Tinder and anxiety about #MeToo accusations have caused a sharp decline in relationships between colleagues.


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