Can employers prevent romance on the job?

It’s no secret the workplace is one of romance. Employees spend a significant part of their days at the office, and are inevitably surrounded by the same people for years on end. Affinities will grow… and sometimes more.


According to a 2013 study by the employment website, 35 per cent of the 426 full-time Canadian employees surveyed have had an affair with an office colleague.

A quarter of these flings have even stood the test of time, all the way to marriage. On the other end of the spectrum, 17 per cent of office romances resulted in divorce from infidelity, as in one of the lovers was already married.


Framing office romance

An employer can certainly not prevent a heart of loving. However, when employees develop more than just professional relationships, there are risks to assess.

An employer can quite easily manage these romances through corporate policies or a code of ethics. This policy could include:


  • Making it compulsory to declare a union, if it is one between a superior and a subordinate, for example.
  • Informing employees of the consequences of a workplace union should the employer find out about a non-professional relationship between two employees subject to confidentiality clauses (imagine a director falling in love with the union representative).
  • Prohibiting relationships between colleagues working in the same department. This more radical approach could, however, push a couple to hide their forbidden love. This also opens the door to other problems. What happens if a couple is fighting, but the partners must continue to share the same office for fear of being fired because they dared to violate the rules of the code of ethics? We are now in the midst of a psychodrama…


Although these measures to deal with love at work are quite legal, they are not widespread, states a human resources consultant who preferred anonymity. “But as this occurs more and more, I think a growing number of companies are likely to adopt such policies. To me, this falls into the category of reasonable accommodation of social behaviour…” he says.


The Study

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