Following on from Steve Easterbrook, CEO of McDonald’s being fired on the 4/11/2019 for having a relationship with an employee, an employment law solicitor has given some tips on how HR and businesses can manage relationships in the office.
Tracey Guest, partner and head of employment law at Slater Heelis has outlined seven top tips on how this situation should be dealt with at work:
- Define who is covered by the policy
- Define what relationships the policy is intended to cover – for example, emotional or romantic relations which go beyond the normally accepted boundaries of the professional sphere between colleagues, including marriage, civil partnerships, cohabitation and “seeing each other”
- Set out the purpose of the policy, i.e. not to interfere with the private lives of employees but to deal with personal relationships which are or may become problematic because they adversely impact on other colleagues or negatively affect business efficiency
- Advise managers on how to deal with personal relationships which are or may be problematic in a way which is proportionate, sensitive, confidential and not discriminatory
- Advise employees involved in personal relationships at work what is expected of them in terms of conduct in the workplace
- Set out what is expected in terms of what is acceptable and what is disclosable in relation to personal relationships, for example, where the relationship exists between a manager/subordinate and/or members of the same team
- Refer to other policies that may be applicable, for example, equal opportunities, harassment, discipline and grievance policies.
Ms Guest said:
In the absence of a policy or procedure which governs relationships at work, there is nothing in law which prevents employees from engaging in relationships in the workplace. As such, the existence of workplace relationship will not, of itself, justify an employer taking disciplinary action or dismissing an employee.
However, the lack of legal guidance in this thorny area has led many employers to recognise the benefit of clarifying what is acceptable with regard to personal relationships at work and implementing policies and procedures.
These policies must clearly set out what the employer expects from its employees in such situations; provide guidance to managers on how to deal with relationships at work and assist everyone in understanding what is and what is not acceptable.