Ain’t no big surprise that employers are starting to pay more attention to the love lives of their staff.

Following a number of recent developments, including the #MeToo campaign and the activities of various high level employees found to be having relationships with junior colleagues, such as at McDonalds, the likes of Blackrock have been considering whether and if so to what extent they can limit inter company, after hours, activity.

For those of us running or working in smaller organisations, you may assume that it’s much less likely to be an issue, but it can still affect you.  If you ask your second in command to make recommendations for a promotion or redundancy, can they be objective if they’ve had a relationship with colleagues who are eligible for a rise or fall.  Even if they can be objective, will other members of the team be willing to accept that there was a level playing field and if not, what does that do to morale.

You could decide that you’ll only ban relationships between people of unequal position, so that senior staff could not take advantage (or be taken advantage of!) by more junior colleagues.  However, today’s tea boy (or girl) could be tomorrow’s managing director, so unless you are going to say that it would be a condition of every promotion that the promoted person broke off any personal relationship with anyone who was about to become junior to them, that could still leave you with a problem.  Although it could create an interesting dimension for my family law team.  Reason for divorce = I was promoted and our company bans relationships with juniors so I have to divorce her to keep my job!

I did once have a client who, having gone through a particularly brutal cycle of redundancies, wanted to ban all remaining staff from having anything to do with ex members of the team, as he was convinced (not without good reason) that the former employees were plotting a coup and wanted inside information.  As it turns out, just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you, but that doesn’t mean that you can tell your staff who they can catch up with the pub or who they can be friends with on Facebook and anyway, how would you police it!

So what are your options?

As is often the case in employment law, the best advice is to

  1. Have a reasonable and well thought out policy on the situation,
  2. Make sure it is clearly communicated to the staff and
  3. Make sure that it is enforced fairly and openly.

If you can justify your policy as being in the best interests of the company (rather than to stop people having fun or even a social life) then it’s likely to be found to be reasonable, but every situation is going to be different, so what works (and is reasonable) in one business or industry is not automatically going to be acceptable in another.

If in doubt, ask an independent third person for their impartial views.  I often find ACAS to be a good resource, or you can always give me a call and pour me a drink but I won’t tell you any lies.

And just think, there is a whole generation of people reading this who won’t understand the song references!

Kleyman & Co Solicitors.  The full service law firm.  Always giving you diamond advice!