Close personal relationships are creating rifts in the workplace as policies don’t exist to deal with them, according to research by HR information source XpertHR.

More than 40% of employers surveyed by XpertHR experienced at least one issue as a result of a close personal relationship between employees in the workplace, yet only 24% had a written policy on the subject.

Complaints about favouritism were the biggest cause of disruption, affecting 37% of the 200 organisations over the past five years. Three in ten witnessed decreased morale, 27% had to deal with bullying after a break-up and more than 10% encountered sexual harassment claims as a result of affairs at work.

Where action was taken, it usually involved a formal reprimand, a transfer to another part of the organisation to ensure the couple did not work closely together, or in some cases it lead to dismissal.

XpertHR Editor Charlotte Wolff said: “Although problems relating to workplace relationships are not an everyday occurrence, they can happen – most commonly having a negative impact on the working environment, efficient team working and employee performance. A large number of HR professionals responding to our survey told us they would like to see a clearer, more open approach to workplace relationships.”