The Chief Executive (“CE”) of McDonalds has this week been fired following a romantic relationship with a fellow employee. Despite the fact that the fast food giant acknowledged that the relationship was consensual, the CE was dismissed as he had violated company policy by engaging in the relationship.
It is reported that over 50% of people have engaged in a workplace romance at some time in their career. Following the rise of the #MeToo movement it is fundamental that employers are aware of how to manage romantic relationships between colleagues and that training is provided to ensure compliance with workplace policies. We have provided some guidance on this below.
First and foremost, employers need to have robust policies and procedures in place which set out rules surrounding workplace relationships. To impose a blanket ban on these would, in reality, be difficult to enforce and may run the risk of contravening an individual’s right to a private life. Instead the policies could set out that any such relationships at work should not affect an employee’s professionalism nor must they have an impact on, for example, promotional opportunities.
Employers must also be aware of the legal risks associated if the relationship takes a turn for the worse. Potential claims could include sexual harassment, sex discrimination or victimisation. Again, employers must have, and enforce, robust policies to limit liability for any such claims.
If you require further advice on this topic or would like us to conduct a policy review for your company, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our team.