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HR Tip - what should I do about workplace affairs?

11th Dec 2003
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These questions are being answered by Learn HR, a market leader in the provision of HR and payroll training and nationally-recognised professional qualifications.

Q: A woman in my department is having an affair with a married man who works in another department. I and one or two of my staff thoroughly disapprove of this. What can I do?

A: You are not entitled to insist that they cease their affair since to do so would be an infringement of their right to private life.

However, you may certainly take action if their relationship interferes with the way they do their work. If, for example, he pays more visits than are necessary to your department or she goes out of her way to visit him, or indeed if they show their affections in ways that could be deemed inappropriate, such as hugging, then you may take action.

Speak to the woman, or even better, HR should speak to them both together, and warn them that such behaviour is unacceptable in the workplace and will lead to formal disciplinary action if continued.

If you do speak to the woman alone, ensure that the man’s manager speaks to him so that your approach cannot be construed as being [***] discriminatory.

You may wish to explain to other employees who disapprove of the relationship that your refusal to try to break it up in no way indicates that you approve of it.

(This topic is covered in detail in our Employment Law courses)

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