Valentine's Day: employees think finding love in the office is acceptable

In light of Valentine’s Day (14/02/20), more than half of employees have come forward saying that having a workplace romance should not be a sackable offence.

Research conducted by Perkbox found that 63 per cent should not lead to a staff member being fired. Over a third (37 per cent) state that employers should not have a say over workers personal lives.

Still, there seems to be a darker side to office romances, as 31 per cent of employees said they have cheated on their partner with a co-worker, and 29 per cent saying they have left a job due to a romance in the office.

For those who have not been romantically involved with a colleague, 75 per cent admitted they have had a crush on a colleague.

Maddie Pozlevic, employee experience lead at Perkbox says:

With the average person spending 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime – often equating to more time with work colleagues than family and friends, it makes sense that a certain amount of workplace romances will develop in your organisation. The key is making clear to your employees from the outset what company policy or social norms should pertain around this.

Back in November 2019, Steve Easterbrook, former CEO of McDonalds was fired for having a relationship with an employee. Following this news, other CEOs came forward to defend Mr Easterbrook.

Adzuna found that 28 per cent of people found their current partner at work and 22 per cent have even dated their boss. With nearly half (48 per cent) of Londoners saying that dating their boss helped their career. They found that the most love filled industries are:

  • Transport and logistics (84 per cent)
  • Healthcare (81 per cent)
  • Mining and metals (79 per cent)
  • Business services (76 per cent)
  • Capital projects and infrastructure (76 per cent)


Still more than a fifth (21 per cent) of relationships that start in an office results in a break-up.

XpertHR has given some guidance on how to deal with when romance blossoms in the office. The company that offers HR intelligence for employers said:

Have rules on personal relationships at work

“Many employers will be fine with two colleagues having a relationship, providing their conduct does not affect their work. However, it is still a good idea for employers to have a written policy on personal relationships at work.

“Typically, a policy on workplace relationships will:

  • allow relationships between colleagues as long as they do not negatively influence employees’ conduct in the workplace;
  • require the couple to inform a manager when a relationship is initiated; and
  • allow the employer to transfer one or both employees to another department, or change their reporting lines when there is the potential for conflict

“The rules must be applied consistently to everyone, including managers. Same-sex couples should not be treated differently to heterosexual couples.”

Remind couples of their responsibilities outside work

“In practical terms, there is not much that an employer can do to police a couple’s activities outside work.

“However, employers can warn employees in a relationship that it would be a possible ground for disciplinary action for them to discuss confidential matters with their partner.

“This would include not divulging commercially sensitive information and not discussing confidential information about another member of staff.”

…but take a stricter line on their behaviour at work

“Employers can legitimately prevent “inappropriate conduct” at work that could lead to disciplinary action.

“A broad ban could be placed on “intimate behaviour” during work time, for example kissing, touching or holding hands.

“Employers can also require employees in a relationship to keep communications in the workplace professional, particularly when using their work email or some other form of internal communication.”

Police unwanted behaviour that can constitute harassment…

“A relationship requires two consenting adults. Employers should take action under their equal opportunities and anti-harassment policies against any employee who makes unwanted sexual advances towards a colleague.

“For example, an employee might repeatedly ask a colleague out despite it being made clear that romance is not an option. Similarly, comments about an employee’s appearance are normally inappropriate.

“Sexual harassment could also occur if someone uses a position of power to make sexual advances. For instance, a manager should not ask a junior employee to go on a date in return for a promotion or pay rise.”

…but show a degree of common sense

“Romance does not need to be completely dead in the workplace. There is unlikely to be a problem if an employee simply fancies a colleague at a similar level of seniority and asks them out, even if the response is a polite “no”.

“Similarly, a one-off, non-sexual compliment from one worker to another about their appearance when they know each other well is unlikely to constitute harassment.

“A respectable and controlled Valentine’s Day-themed event at work (for example within a sales team) can be good for morale and motivation.”






Darius is the editor of HRreview. He has previously worked as a finance reporter for the Daily Express. He studied his journalism masters at Press Association Training and graduated from the University of York with a degree in History.