romanceAccording to new research by recruitment specialist, OfficeTeam, 97% of HR directors either always or sometimes allow office romances in the workplace.

Of the 200 HR directors who were asked, ’What is your company’s policy on workplace romance?’, only 4% said that it is banned from taking place in the office.

The survey questioned 200 HR directors across small, medium and large businesses and highlights workplace disruption (42%) and other employees’ discomfort (34%) as major objections when it comes to workplace romances.

When asked ’What is your primary concern regarding workplace romances?’ the responses showed that following workplace disruption and other employees’ discomfort, diminished productivity (26%) and possibility of the couple breaking up (25%) were the next biggest concerns.

In a separate OfficeTeam survey, out of the 1,000 employees questioned, 73% believe romances should be allowed in the workplace, and workers aged 35-44 are supposedly the most inclined to have had an office romance, with 44% admitting to having had a relationship.

Commenting on the findings, Phil Booth, Director, OfficeTeam, said:

“As colleagues spend increasingly longer hours working side-by-side, it isn’t surprising that workplace romances may occur, particularly as many employees have met their future wife or husband in the office.

“However, there are many real issues that employees and senior managers need to acknowledge when considering situations of this nature. HR departments should stay informed about potential legal ramifications but most importantly maintain open lines of communication with line managers and employees to help address any issues as they arise.”

Commenting on the dangers that an office romance can bring to organisations, North West law firm, Maxwell Hodge, has warned that businesses can face charges of harassment and discrimination as a result of an office romance.

Employment Lawyer, Heather Grant at Maxwell Hodge, said:

“Many firms don’t have policies in place covering the fallout from office romances, but they are leaving themselves open to potentially damaging and expensive legal claims.

“Issues tend to arise more when a relationship breaks down but even at the start of a relationship, particularly when it’s between a manager and their subordinate, it can lead to accusations of favouritism from other employees.

“The biggest downside though is when a relationship does fail and then employers can find themselves left with the fall out, including allegations of sexual harassment and in extreme cases, acts of physical violence against former partners.”

In the UK employers can be held liable for the misconduct of their employees; unless they show they have attempted to prevent such behaviour, and Grant warns that it’s vital to have a written policy in place addressing harassment.

She explains that this policy should send a strong message that any kind of harassment be it sexual or not, will not be tolerated and that employees are expected to act professionally at all times even if they are in a romantic relationship.

Grant added:

“In brief, a policy should set out whether you expect to be told about an office romance or just one between a manager and subordinate. Make it clear how any concerns about harassment can be reported and what steps your business will take when faced with such an allegation.

“By drawing up a robust policy and getting legal advice when issues arise, firms can cover themselves should an employee’s personal life cross the office door.”