Top Tips for Managing Relationships in the Workplace
Personal relationships are common within the workplace environment with many couples having met their partners through their work. Invariably this is going to happen due to the amount of time employees spend working closely together in their day to day lives. Family relationships are even more prevalent in the workplace. According to the Institute for Family Business there were over 4.8 million family owned businesses in the UK in 2017. This accounts for 85% of all private sector companies.
Personal and family relationships at work are not necessarily a problem. These types of relationships at work can be positive for businesses improving staff retention, engagement and morale. If two employees who have a family or personal relationship do not work together on a regular basis, or they work in separate departments or workplace locations there may be no conflict of interest or problem which ever arises from their working relationship.
It is however important to acknowledge that certain relationships, whether intimate, close personal or family can cause issues for employers and colleagues if they are not managed appropriately, the relationship causes a potential conflict of interest at work or there are accusations or perceptions of, nepotism. A conflict of interest and/or nepotism can arise when one employee with a close personal or family relationship with another has authority or influence over the other employee. In addition, it is worthwhile bearing in mind that personal relationships at work can give rise to an increased risk for businesses of claims of sexual harassment or discrimination when relationships break down.
What can employers do to proactively manage relationships in the workplace?
From a legal perspective there is no law which prohibits personal or family relationships at work. Some employers may choose to impose a complete ban on relationships at work, this is known in the US as ‘love contracts’; however, this is not practical to administer and could potentially infringe on an employee’s human rights and specifically their right to have a private life.
Consider Introducing a Policy:
Employers may wish to consider introducing a Managing Personal/Family Relationships at Work Policy. A Policy may allow relationships between employees providing that the relationship does not negatively influence either employees’ conduct in the workplace.
The Policy could include:
a. Outlining the Company’s position regarding relationships at work.
b. Setting out any requirements/responsibilities for employees in terms of reporting a relationship to management and what type of relationships need to be reported.
c. Setting out any requirements/responsibilities for managers where action is needed to address any potential conflict of interest arising from a reported relationship.
d. Documenting any restricted activities involving employees with a personal/family relationship at work.
e. Detailing how the Company will deal with any Policy breaches or other measures the Company may put in place if a relationship causes a conflict of interest at work i.e. moving or transferring an employee to another department or workplace location.
If you wish to introduce a Managing Personal/Family Relationships at Work Policy, please get in touch with Howarths. We can assist you with drafting a bespoke Policy for your business.
Recruitment and Reward Decisions:
In order to avoid accusations or perceptions of nepotism companies that employ individuals in close personal or family relationships should ensure that any decisions which relate to recruitment, promotions or pay are where possible, determined by someone who is objective/ independent of those involved in those types of relationships. In addition, any decision to recruit, promote or reward an individual should also be based on an assessment of their experience, skill set and/or achievements.
Consider Utilising Mediation Services
If a personal or family relationship has broken down in the workplace, it can cause ill feeling and an uncomfortable working environment for the parties involved and their colleagues. In order to re-establish the working relationship between those involved, and mitigate against the risk of any legal claim arising from the relationship breakdown, the Company should consider utilising independent mediation services such as those provided by ACAS to rebuild and resolve any issues arising from the relationship breakdown. It is important to note that mediation is a voluntary process which requires buy-in from both parties to initiate.