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What to do when that sweet office romance gives you a toothache

by , 24 August 2016
What to do when that sweet office romance gives you a toothacheYour employees spend most of their lives at work. So it's not unlikely that they may start to develop intimate relationships with each other. They have a right to privacy. But as soon as those relationships start having an impact on your business, the right to privacy becomes diluted.

So it's only when the relationship has a negative effect on the operation of the business that you can interfere and take certain disciplinary steps.

This article will take you through three common scenarios of workplace romance and outline what steps you can take in each case.
Keep reading below…
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Three common scenarios of workplace romance

Scenario 1: An employee has an affair with the CEO's wife
In this scenario, believe it or not there's no misconduct involved. The employee can be charged with stupidity yes! But not misconduct.
Here the CEO and the employee will need to have a one-on-one meeting to try and resolve the matter.
If the CEO can't continue working with the employee, I'd suggest the CEO propose a 'termination by agreement' to the employee. This'll be where the CEO suggests to the employee that they end the employment relationship. This'll involve no money other than payment in lieu of notice.
If the employee doesn't accept this, the CEO should give the employee notice of termination on the basis of incompatibility.
Incompatibility would be where the employee isn't able to work in harmony either within the corporate culture of the business or with fellow employees.
The employee's conduct could be the cause of incompatibility in the workplace.
An adulterous relationship isn't necessarily grounds for instituting disciplinary action against an employee. You need an operational, not a moral reason to take disciplinary action.
Scenario 2: Co-employees become intimately involved
In this situation there'd be no reason to intervene. But if the relationship impacts on the working environment then you've got the right to intervene.
For example, the employees may behave inappropriately at work, or personal conflict could flow over into the workplace.
You don't have the right to expect the employees to end their relationship, even where it has a negative impact on the workplace. This would be an invasion of privacy.
In this scenario you'd use less restrictive means to maintain discipline and protect your interests.
Resort to disciplinary action instead of dismissal. You could charge the employees with misconduct, alleging that there's a workplace rule prohibiting inappropriate and intimate conduct in the workplace. But make sure you have a do not fraternise clause in your employment contracts.
Improper conduct can justify disciplinary action but expecting employees to end a relationship would be an invasion of privacy.
Another possible option is that employees could be moved out of the same department, if this is feasible. But here again because you're changing the conditions of employment you'd need to get the employees consent.
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Scenario 3: Spouses determine one another's duties, salaries etc.
In this situation there would be operational issues, giving you the right to take action.  You could move the employees into different departments to avoid any future conflicts of interest. But make sure they agree to change their conditions of employment.
P.S. Do you know how to legally dismiss your employee? Use the tips, advice and checklists from the Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf Service to ensure your dismissals are watertight. http://www.labourlawhandbook.co.za/content/do-you-know-how-legally-dismiss-your-employee

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