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Romance in the workplace: what should you pay attention to?

It can happen to anyone: you develop feelings for a colleague, maybe even a relationship. What do you do with that? You can ignore and suppress your feelings. But can you actually admit it? And if so, does that have unpleasant consequences for your relationship with colleagues, work or employment? We take a detailed look at the situation, your rights and the most important points of attention.

What are the rules?

From a legal point of view, nothing stands in the way of a relationship in the workplace, so your employer cannot prohibit you from doing so. However, he is allowed to draw up a policy on how to deal with such a situation and record this in the company regulations, staff handbook or the code of conduct. For example, this may state that you must report a relationship or how to avoid uncomfortable situations in the workplace. Your employer should clearly point out this policy to you so that you know what the rules are. If necessary, do your own research into possible policy on relationships with colleagues.

Relationship with an equal colleague

If you develop a relationship with a colleague on the same level as you, it is important to deal with this in a businesslike manner: your work should not suffer as a result. As long as this is not the case, your employer cannot do anything about it. But if your work does suffer, your employer can intervene. For example, by placing one of you in a different department. He must always have a good reason for this.

Relationship between supervisor and subordinate

A relationship between colleagues at a different level is a lot more sensitive: as a manager you not only have an exemplary function, but there is also a skewed power balance. In addition, colleagues can also start to feel unsafe. So be very careful with such a relationship.

The important thing is to be open about the relationship and report it as soon as possible. Failure to do so can have adverse consequences – in the worst case, even dismissal. Another option is to transfer one of the two people in the relationship to another team or department so that you don't have to deal with each other on a business level.

Unsafe or unpleasant situations

Romantic feelings in the workplace can be a source of unsafe or unhealthy situations. From annoying gossip circulating to colleagues who are afraid that someone will receive preferential treatment. If this is the case, an employer must intervene. This is especially true in the dangerous situation where a manager has feelings for a subordinate, but those feelings are not mutual. Employers may and must set clear limits to risky situations or undesirable behaviour.

Do you feel unsafe at work, for whatever reason? Then you can always go to a confidential adviser. There you can tell your story. In addition, investigate whether there is a policy to report unpleasant behaviour. Save messages, e-mails or other attachments that you receive, so that you can use them as evidence for your employer or confidential adviser.

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More information

Do you have questions about relationships in the workplace? Or are you in a difficult or unpleasant situation yourself, and you don't know what to do? Please do not hesitate to contact our Service Center. We are available every working day from 8.00 am to 18.00 pm via and 0345 851 963.