Everyone knows a job is better when you have a friendat the office, but sometimes those friendships become something…more. In these situations, a human resources department needs the right policies in place to protect both employees and the company. Yes, we’re all adults here, but relationships can get complicated — even when your significant other isn’t also your co-worker.
Having the right workplace relationships policy in place gives staff members shared, clear boundaries. This contributes to a safe working environment free of confusion or water cooler gossip. Especially in a time where workplace romance is on the rise, it’s wise to have your rules in writing.
What Is a Workplace Relationship Policy?
A workplace relationship policy, sometimes called a fraternization policy, is a set of guidelines and rulesfor romantic relationships between co-workers. It helps ensure that all interactions among colleagues remain professional, respectful, and consensual. It can also address sexual harassment, bullying, discrimination, and favoritism.
If romantic workplace relationships are permitted at your company, the policy can also address the limits (such as not permitting manager-supervisee couples), as well as how couples should interact with each other in the work environment.
Benefits of Implementing a Workplace Relationship Policy
A well-defined policy on employee dating serves multiple purposes:
- Maintains a professional working environment: A clearly-defined policy can help set boundaries and expectations for employee interactions. This helps ensure employees remain focused on professionalism and respect.
- Prevents conflicts of interest: Conflicts of interest can arise when employees are involved in romantic or personal relationships, especially if there is a direct or hierarchical reporting relationship between them. With a clear policy in place, employees and managers can avoid these conflicts — or navigate them if they arise.
- Protects your company's reputation: Implementing a policy can demonstrate to employees you’re committed to creating a fair and inclusive work environment. This can enhance the company's reputation and attractiveness to potential employees and business partners.
- Promotes transparency: This type of policy fosters a culture of transparency, fairness, and equal treatment, since all employees know of the rules and expectations surrounding personal relationships at the workplace.
- Safeguards productivity: These policies can help prevent workplace distractions, disruptions, or divisions caused by relationship-related issues, thus maintaining focus on work and productivity.
- Minimizes potential legal issues: A clear policy can help reduce the risk of harassment, discrimination, or favoritism claims that can result from workplace relationships gone wrong. Many companies also use legal consultation to ensure their policy is sound and protective.
- Ensures employee wellbeing: By setting guidelines, a policy can help protect employees from potential power imbalances, coercion, or exploitation that may arise within workplace relationships.
Four Tips for Writing a Workplace Relationship Policy
A workplace relationship policy helps protect your most valuable asset: your employees. Here are four tips you can use when creating your guidelines.
Establish Your Stance
Before you start drafting your policy, the first step is to lay the foundation. Get input from members of the HR department and other company stakeholders to establish your stance on workplace relationships. Dating policies vary between organizations, so writing yours will depend on your company’s individual situation.
Clearly Define the Rules, Expectations, and Boundaries
The purpose of this policy is to make sure that all relationships are consensual and that they don’t generate conflicts of interest.
If certain relationships are prohibited, specify which types. For example, if two people working in the same department aren’t allowed to date, you can specify that in your policy. If you have separate stances on peer-to-peer relationships and for manager-and-employee relationships, you can include that in your policy. Relationships between managers and employees can get more risky or complicated, especially if the manager oversees the employee. If this type of relationship isn't permitted, be sure to make this clear to all employees from onboardingonward.
You can also indicate if there are prohibited behaviors from colleagues in a relationship, such as no public displays of affection in the workplace.
Workplace relationships should never lead to harassment, favoritism, or discriminatory treatment. You can clearly communicate the company's zero tolerance for such behavior within your policy. Consider outlining the consequences of policy violations, including disciplinary actions that may be taken if the policy is breached, if applicable.
Get Legal Consultation
For HR leaders, it’s important to ensure that your workplace relationship policy protects both employees and the company. This is where a legal review comes in handy. Working with experienced legal professionals can help you create a comprehensive policy that meets all of your needs while also mitigating any potential risk.
Legal experts can provide valuable insight into what should be included in the policy and how to word it to avoid any potential issues down the line. Getting professional advice from an attorney can help you write a robust policy that helps prevent surprises later.
Distribute the Policy to Every Employee
It's important for employees to understand and abide by the rules and expectations regarding personal relationships at work since it fosters a culture of transparency, fairness, and equal treatment. There are a number of ways HR leaders can distribute the policy.
You can post it where everyone has access –– like in the employee handbook or on the company wiki –– and communicate it through team meetings or other forums. You can send an email or message to all employees once it’s posted. By distributing it to every employee, you can ensure everyone understands the expectations around workplace relationships.
Actively Promoting a Healthy Work Environment
A workplace relationship policy plays a crucial role in safeguarding employee wellness. It promotes fairness and provides a playbook for addressing concerns. These are foundational aspects of a healthy corporate culturewhere employees’ autonomy and wellbeing are respected.
Creating a healthy work environment is crucial for today’s employers. Seventy percent of workers would consider leaving a company that doesn’t focus on employee wellbeing, and nearly half of employees said their wellbeing declinedin 2022. Employers that address this need with wellness initiatives stand to increase retention and productivity while saving on healthcare and talent management costs.
If you want to support a healthy work environment with an employee wellbeing program, speak with a Gympass wellbeing specialist today.
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The Gympass Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.