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It’s February, and Valentine’s day is right around the corner. As the season of love spreads through the air, cheesy “I love you” cards are stacking the shelves, social media is brimming with declarations of affection and singles everywhere, watching chick flicks, are being convinced a card will fall through their letter box any minute. However, what if that ‘secret Valentine’ were to land in your office locker? It’s true what they say, you cannot help who you fall in love with, but the question I have is: should you fall in love at work?
In a society that’s promoting diversity, inclusion and equality, as well as one that’s experiencing the rise of the #metoo movement, I find myself questioning whether the office should only be a place of work or if, in fact, it’s a place where relationships can thrive. With a study finding 65% of office workers had been involved in at least one workplace romance, it appears as if a lot of people are mixing business with pleasure, but what are the legalities of such relationships? Fudia Smartt, partner at Hine Legal, noted in an article for LexisNexis Office love stories—exploring the legality of the workplace romance that there are ‘no explicit laws governing workplace relationships in the UK’ but these relationships can ‘potentially give rise to a host of employment law issues including: sex discrimination, sexual harassment, harassment under the Protection of Harassment Act 1997, breach of contract, and unfair dismissal claims’, among others.
When I think of office romances gone wrong, the most obvious example is Bridget Jones and Daniel Cleaver. After Daniel—Bridget’s boss—cheats on her, Bridget decides to leave the company. But not before Daniel tries to tell her that she would be breaching her contract as it says she must give ‘six week’s notice’, as well as telling her she has been ‘overlooked [in terms of work opportunities] for personal reasons’. This example alone raises a whole host of issues which you should be aware of, such as:
There is a heart shaped silver lining to workplace dating; according to a study in 2015, 30% of the reported office romances lead to a serious relationship or marriage. We’ve all heard about teachers dating teachers and lawyers marrying lawyers, due to the benefits of having shared values and understanding of the work environment, but why are these relationships beneficial to the workplace? Well, office romances are said to, among other things:
However, the above isn’t always the case. Relationships aren’t always smooth sailing in or out of the workplace, so when asking yourself the question of passion or promotion, here are some things to consider:
From an employer’s perspective, to minimise risk, Fudia Smartt suggests:
Happy Valentine’s Day!
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