Employees getting along well can be great for morale and productivity. It’s inevitable, however, that some co-workers will start dating and even get married. Some of the happiest married couples met on the job, so workplace romances aren’t necessarily a bad thing. In Canada, workplace romances are not illegal – but as an employer, you have a right to set policies and, in some cases, enforce boundaries.
Create a Policy
Having a clear, written policy regarding workplace romances can help your employees understand expectations and avoid misunderstandings. Going over policies with all new employees, rather than handing them a handbook in the hopes that they’ll read it, is the most effective way to ensure they understand the polices that are most important to workplace harmony and productivity.
Ensure your employees understand the difference between wanted and unwanted sexual advances, as the unwanted variety can lead to sexual harassment lawsuits which can be costly and damage your business’s reputation. If your small business has yet to hire a human resources director, you might consider contracting the services of a human resources consultant or employment and labour law attorney to help you craft a solid policy that addresses workplace romances.
Prohibit Direct Report Romances
You can’t stop co-workers from socializing and falling in love, but you can have a policy that prohibits romantic relationships between direct reports and their managers. It’s not illegal for a manager and a subordinate to date, but you can require both parties to disclose their romantic relationships as soon as they happen to avoid conflicts of interest. Thereafter, the way you handle a situation where a manager and a subordinate have decided to become romantically involved is up to your discretion. You could, for example, transfer the subordinate or manager to another department to avoid issues such as unfair performance evaluations and pay raises. Here again, a expert human resources consultant or attorney can help you navigate a fair and legal resolution to such a matter.
Require Professional Conduct
Clear expectations can help your employees control their behavior at work. Requiring professional conduct in your workplace at all times won’t end workplace romances altogether, but such rules might make your employees think twice about pursing romantic relationships with their co-workers on your business premises. For example, as an employer, you have a right to prohibit public displays of affection in the workplace.
When the Unfortunate Happens
As a business owner, it’s a good idea to find a balance between strict policies and openness. You want your employees to feel comfortable sharing their concerns about workplace romances with you without fear of reprisal. Affairs of the heart can be tricky, and the sooner you know about an office romance, the sooner you’ll be able to act to keep a failed relationship from negatively impacting productivity.