It is estimated that over a quarter of employees meet their long-term partner at work and that more than half have had a personal relationship or office affair with a work colleague. However, from a managerial perspective, office romances can create difficulties if they either do, or have the potential to, impact on the workplace. In particular, a relationship between a manager and one of his or her subordinates may result in allegations of bias and favouritism being made by other disgruntled members of staff.
Generally, employers should not interfere in the personal lives of their staff. But, does a policy preventing employees who are in a personal relationship working as supervisor/subordinate amount to sex discrimination? In Faulkner v The Chief Constable of Hampshire Constabulary, the EAT said no.
The EAT held that a policy preventing police officers in a personal relationship from working together as supervisor and subordinate was justified by the need to ensure actual and apparent correctness in working relationships. In particular, it met the real need to manage the risk that undue influence or favouritism (for example allocation of favourable shift patterns) would either actually affect the integrity of one or both of the partners, or would be perceived to do so.