I am the HR Manager of a firm of
I would like to transfer the agent to another branch, which I am permitted to do under the contract of employment – is there any reason why I shouldn’t simply give her notice to move forthwith?
Well, sex and the workplace has never been a more topical issue. If you saw last week’s episode of The Apprentice, as well as the subsequent media furore, you’ll know that views on the issue are starkly divided. Those in Alan Sugar’s camp consider that exploiting one’s natural assets is strictly no go. But others think that love makes the business world go round and a bit of flirtation is just one way to get a leg-up when you’re climbing the greasy pole.
Whatever your view of the rights and wrongs of the issue, you need to take care before intervening in an office romance or, for that matter, banning them in advance. No romance policies, known as “love contracts” are fairly common in the
Having said that, a distinction can be drawn between objecting to the romance itself and objecting to consequential business risks, such as those you identify. The concerns that you express at this romance are wholly legitimate. In fact, let me add a couple more for you! In practice, one of the big risks in this situation is that if and when the relationship goes sour the working environment may become intolerable or, at least, seriously disrupted. In a worst case scenario, after love has faded one or other of the employees may cry “harassment” or could allege that they were being persecuted as a result of the break-up. Employees standing on the side-lines are less of a problem but issues still arise. These sorts of situation invite allegations of favouritism (whether real or perceived). The risk of confidential information leaking also is a very real one and information gained in this way may be used against you if this romance lasts little longer than the Valentine’s Day bouquet.
For these reasons and the ones you identify, I think you are right to intervene in this situation. However, it’s dangerous to have an automatic response of moving the more junior employee. Statistically, I’m sad to say, women are still much more likely to be in the junior position, so such a policy may amount to indirect sex discrimination. In order to ensure that any such indirect discrimination can be justified (and therefore is lawful) you need to show that this response is a proportionate way to achieve a legitimate aim. In practice, this means making sure that you have your “ducks in a row” before taking any step. A few tips are:
Finally, may I recommend that you try to retain your sense of humour about all this. In the end, it’s not your job to play moral arbiter for your employees. By all means, take the steps you need to but remember that a judgemental response to the blossoming romance is likely to alienate all concerned and will achieve little except breeding resentment. Good luck!
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