I've started a relationship with a colleague. Will my employer have a problem with this?

Surveys have indicated that 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 cautious employers have drawn up policies for dealing with the issue. While some are more draconian than others, 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, one half of a couple may think that the other is spending too much time with a particular client and may try to interfere, to the detriment of the business.

Few employers actually seek to ban workplace relationships altogether, though there have been occasions when this has happened. Problems are most likely to occur where one partner is in a position of authority over the other at work. Employers sometimes fear that this will affect normal workplace discipline or may cause resentment by other colleagues who fear favouritism, or may lead to interpersonal problems if the relationship later breaks down.

Our advice is to check your contract and staff handbook, and make sure you understand any specific policies in your company.

Sometimes employers do not ban relationships but require them to be disclosed. Some employers have a policy of requiring one member of the couple to work in a different department, or to report to a different manager.

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.

Doctor/nurse romances are the stuff of popular novels and soaps but not such fun if they are going on over your sick bed, so bear the customers or clients 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.

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