Valentine's Day legal warning: Bolton firm advises against office romances
LOVE is in the air — but experts are advising companies to tread carefully over romantic workplace liaisons.
Christine Hart, of KBL Solicitors in Mawdsley Street, Bolton, said: “Office romances can pose potential risks for employers, such as claims for sex discrimination, sexual harassment or victimisation which often arise when a once sweet relationship turns sour.
“I have dealt with cases in which allegations of heavy-handed treatment and unfair selection for redundancy have been made.
“To protect themselves from such claims, a business may be tempted to impose a blanket ban on office romances.
"This can be problematic, as in order to avoid claims for discrimination, the ban will have to be applied equally to all those caught.”
Jo Eccles, an adviser at the Forum for Private Business, said: “The number of people involved in workplace liaisons is anywhere between 30 and 70 per cent and most employers will admit coming across it at some point.
“There is no law against office romances, and while you may not like it, it doesn’t mean you can pull the plug on it legally.”
According to Ms Eccles, those issues include the effect on the trust and confidence of colleagues in relation to fair treatment or their own ability to discuss issues openly.
The perception of other employees, clients or customers in relation to professionalism and fairness may also be called into question, and there could be conflicting loyalties and breaches of confidentiality.