Romance at work: Can you mix business with pleasure?

Matt Gingell asks whether businesses can interfere with workplace romance

It all started with the twinkling of eyes in the lift. Then, a smile on the stairway, a flirt in the foyer, a lengthy lunch, and before you know, it’s officially unofficial – you’re together.

The office is fertile ground for the blossoming of intimate relationships; and this must be particularly so in the City with the long-hours culture and the amount of time that colleagues are spending in the company of each other. Are there circumstances though when employers can thwart romance in the office?

It is very difficult for employers to object to workplace relationships. Such matters are personal and any objections would probably be inconsistent with the right to respect for private and family life under Human Rights’ law. 

Should the relationship affect either of the employees’ work performance including if and when, for instance, the relationship turns sour, the employer could instigate poor performance procedures. A dismissal though would only likely to be deemed fair if, in spite of an improvement plan being put in place and warnings being issued, an acceptable level of performance had not been reached.


In the case of workplace relationships between line managers and those employees that report to them, favouritism and perceived favouritism can be a genuine issue for employers.

In some situations it may be appropriate for employers to have policies requiring such a relationship to be disclosed, and breaching such policies could warrant disciplinary action.

Imposing a blanket requirement though on employees to disclose all relationships would again be likely to interfere with the right to respect for private and family life.

Confidentiality may also be a problem. Where, for example, two employees are intimately involved and one leaves the organisation to work for a competitor, there may be a real risk that the remaining employee could disclose confidential information to their partner.

If this information were to be passed on to the competitor, this could have serious consequences. It would though be hard for the employer to take action against the existing employee on the sole basis that there might be a chance of so called pillow talk.

Usually, therefore, employers aren’t able to meddle with personal relationships at work. If your employer does try to frustrate a romantic tie, subject to any duty of disclosure, tell them politely to mind their own business!

Matt Gingell is a partner at law firm Gannons, which specialises in employment and commercial law. www.gannons.co.uk

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager / Development Manager - NW London - £58k + 15% bonus

£50000 - £667000 per annum + excellent benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Manager / ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant / Telemarketer - OTE £20,000

£13000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manager - City, London

£40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...