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HR’s guide to handling office romance

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More than half of people (57%) admit to being involved in a workplace romance according to a survey conducted by vault on behalf of XpertHR. It may be the month of love but there are plenty concerns for the HR department. And as campaigns like #MeToo and #Timesup are taking centre stage it is more important than ever to take seriously allegations of inappropriate behaviour.

Some of the world’s most famous couples met at work including Barack and Michelle Obama, Bill and Melinda Gates, and Jim Halpert and Pam Beesley of “The Office”.

“People spend a lot of time with each other at work, they share much in common with their co-workers, and romance commonly blooms,” says Beth Zoller, legal editor at XpertHR in a statement. “However, permitting employees who are romantically involved to work together opens an employer up to the risk of a lawsuit.”

The recent spike in sexual harassment claims have cast a spotlight on harassment and brought renewed interest and scrutiny to already-complicated workplace relationships. It is critical for employers and HR to know how to properly manage and monitor such relationships. Having a policy that clearly outlines the conduct your organisation considers to be harassment and how these situations can be addressed is important and can help to establish an employer’s defence if a claim is raised.

Office romance best practices;

  • Have a dating and personal relationships policy as well as strong equal employment opportunity (EEO) policies addressing discrimination, harassment and retaliation.
  • Closely monitor romantic relationships that already exist.
  • Apply policies consistently.
  • Communicate regularly.
  • Reduce social media risks.
  • Consider using a love contract.

Whether or not an organisation decides to implement a policy specifically addressing dating between co-workers, harassment policies can help to address some of the concerns that these types of relationships may lead to.

“Office romances are often inevitable but they can cause complications for employers, who need to ensure proper workplace conduct and make sure all employees are treated fairly,” says Zoller. “Employers should evaluate the risks related to romantic relationships in the workplace, adopt proper policies to protect the employer’s interests, and set parameters for dating and close personal relationships at work.”

ALSO READ: Number of office romances highest since 2007

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