With Barnaby Joyce, the National Party Leader, in hot water over his relationship with a former media advisor, and Valentine’s Day this month, people have loved to ask questions about workplace relationships!

Is it ok to date someone that you work with?
Is it ok to ask them on one date?
What about employing someone you’re already in a relationship with?
What if they’re in a more senior/junior position?

Many employers become concerned about relationships in their workplace for many reasons and set a blanket rule of ‘no workplace relationships’. The concerns normally fall into three areas:

What if they become distracted by their partner at work/their performance drops?
What if the relationship breaks down and they can’t work together?
What if an employee is accused of sexual harassment?

This tends to result in an informal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy. Managers don’t (or pretend not to) know about relationships between staff and prefer to think it’s none of their business. In reality, open and honest communication between employers and their staff can avoid future awkward moments and set clear expectations about appropriate behaviour.

As the line between work and personal time becomes blurred in many industries, it’s important to have clear HR policies in place specifically referencing workplace relationships. A recent report suggested that Apple was reviewing its relationship policies and would implement a one-chance only policy. You could ask someone you worked with to go out on a date, but ONLY once. If they said ‘no’, or were non-committal, answering with something vague like ‘I’m busy that night’ you could not ask them out again. We think this is a sensible approach that could be easily implemented into any workplace.

Ensuring your business has a sexual harassment policy in place that includes prospective and actual relationships, which staff have read and understood, can also be a great starting point for setting clear boundaries. It is important to note, there have been many cases in the media over the past few years, regarding sexual harassment within the workplace. These have often been inappropriate advances by someone in a senior position at a workplace. Do not do this. It’s wrong and it’s also expensive. Many of these cases have resulted in significant settlements.

We’re realistic that workplace relationships can blossom from time to time. With respect, honest communication and straightforward policies, they don’t have to result in heartache in your workplace.

Stay tuned next week for our take on how to manage these relationships in your workplace.

Get in touch with our team for all of your employment needs today.