'Kiss and tell' policy dumped

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The Independent Online

By Brian Farmer, Press Association

A local authority today dumped a proposed "kiss and tell personnel" staff policy after criticism from unions.

Personal bosses at Fenland District Council, based in March, Cambridgeshire, had put forward the scheme, under which "intimate behaviour during work time" could have been be classed as gross misconduct and resulted in disciplinary action.

But council members today unanimously rejected the idea. One councillor labelled the proposal the "bonk and be booted out" policy and said it had come from the "database of daft ideas". Another said publicity about the plan had turned the council into a "laughing stock".

Last week a senior official at union Unison said the proposal was "nonsense out of a Christmas cracker" and a TUC boss described the idea as an "Orwellian dictat".

The Draft People Policy: Relationships At Work plan was drawn up by Sam Anthony, the council's head of human resources and organisational development.

It proposed that staff should declare any "close personal relationship" with a colleague to their manager "in writing", personnel officials should be told and "the information declared... recorded on personal files".

Members of the Conservative-controlled council's staff committee rejected the plan today after Ms Anthony outlined it at a meeting in March.

Councillor Jonathan Farmer called the idea a "bonk and be booted out" policy.

"It has come from the database of daft ideas," he told the committee. "This is an example of incredibly bad judgment."

Councillor Peter Murphy said: "This last week, everywhere I have been, everyone has been taking the rise out of me. To the general public this is just a laugh. A total laughing stock."

Committee members said the policy was unnecessary and they feared it could breach human rights legislation.

Last week, Sarah Veale, the TUC's head of employment rights, said the idea was "unromantic" and "Orwellian".

"It's quite common for relationships to start in the office but having to declare your feelings via the HR department is hardly the most romantic way to make a move," she said.

"Whilst it's important for employers to tackle inappropriate behaviour at work, laying down Orwellian diktats about people's personal lives will simply generate resentment among staff.

"Workers shouldn't feel compelled to say anything about an office relationship."

John Toomey, regional organiser for the Unison union, said: "I think that this particular piece of nonsense must have come out of a Christmas cracker.

"There are already enough policies at Fenland Council's disposal, and at the disposal of other local authorities, to deal with inappropriate behaviour at work."

And campaign organisation Big Brother Watch said people should not be expected to divulge details about personal circumstances to employers.

"Quite apart from the fact it's wrong for Fenland District Council to build up this kind of database, what people do in their own time is up to them," said Big Brother Watch campaign director Daniel Hamilton.

"If people are good at their jobs, they should be left alone - regardless of who they share their bed with at the end of the day."