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Will you be my valentine? How to deal with romance in the workplace

Most people who work in an office have to develop close working relationships with their colleagues, not least because they spend a substantial part of their lives in their close company.

According to recent research at least one in three people has had a romantic liaison with a colleague and 28 per cent of British working women say they have had sex in the workplace.

Secret trysts in the boardroom and chance encounters in the lift can bring misery as well as intrigue to the working day.  So what should an employer be mindful of?

Romance in the workplace policy

Consider an employee policy on romantic or dating relationships in the workplace setting out the rules surrounding fraternization in the office.


Training is important especially for people in positions of seniority.  Training should also cover the risks of the repercussions from a relationship breakdown and the perception of bias.

Key points

In order to minimise the risks linked to office romances, employers should:

  • Ensure staff, particularly more senior staff, notify HR of any personal relationships at work;
  • This may lead to adjusting reporting lines and management structures to avoid any perception of bias;
  • Remove members of staff who are engaged in relationships with colleagues from any management decisions involving their partners;
  • Remind staff of your harassment policies in case things go wrong and a person starts receiving unwanted attention from a spurned lover;
  • Remind staff about your IT policies – you don’t want staff spending all day emailing each other inappropriate material; and
  • Take disciplinary action if needed – cloakroom exploits could also be considered as a failure by the employees to dedicate their working time to the interests of the organisation.

Contractual clauses forbidding office relationships are unlikely to work and could even create the possibility that highly valued employees have to be dismissed for falling in love.