I've started a relationship with a colleague I met at our Christmas party. Will my employer have a problem with this?

Many relationships start at work – not surprising perhaps, since people spend so much of their time there. Although this rarely causes any serious problems at work, some employers clearly feel that there are potential risks and have drawn up policies for dealing with the issue. Some are more draconian than others, but most are aimed at ensuring that any difficulties do not spill over into work relations, either between the couple or affecting other colleagues.

Occasionally, relationships at work can lead to other problems – for example, perceptions of favouritism. Few employers actually seek to ban workplace relationships altogether, though there have been occasions when this has happened. Problems are most likely to occur when one partner is the other's boss. Employers sometimes fear that this will affect normal workplace discipline.

Our advice is to check your contract and staff handbook, and make sure you understand any specific policies in your company. Speak to your union if you think the rules are over the top or intrusive. Try to keep your love life separate from your work life as far as possible and try not to let any problems with your partner spill over into work activities.

If the relationship comes to an end, you should be careful not to let personal bad feelings spill over into your working relationship. Otherwise it is possible that you could find yourself in trouble – and even being accused of sexual harassment or discrimination, particularly if you are in a position of seniority over your colleague.

Doctor/nurse romances are the stuff of popular novels and soap operas, but not such fun if they are going on over your sick bed, so bear the customers or consumers in mind too.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.