Today is St Dwynwen’s Day, which is considered to be the Welsh equivalent of St Valentine’s day. Despite this, Dwynwen’s story is not what we would consider a typical story of romance. The earliest version of her tale chronicles that Dwynwen was in love with a Prince called Maelon Dafodrill, but when she rebuffed his premarital sexual advances, he became enraged and left her. Fearful and sad, Dwynwen prayed to God, and her prayers were met when Maelon’s advances were cooled – by turning him in to a block of ice.

Given the current backlash against unwanted sexual advances, is it advisable to take heed of this tale in the context of workplace romances and not attempt to mix the personal with the professional and put workplace flirtations permanently on ice?

A recent study by Approved Index indicated that 65% of office staff said they have been involved in at least one workplace romance. However, difficulties can arise when advances are not welcomed or when a relationship sours. Even when a romance is going well, this can cause its own difficulties should the personal relationship have the potential to conflict with professional responsibilities. As an employer, it is difficult to manage the fallout from such matters. However, there are a few things that can be done to encourage not only an open environment where employees feel able to raise any concerns they may have in relation to the behaviour of others, but also provides clear guidelines in terms of expected standards of conduct, along with the potential consequences of falling short of these standards.

Do consider:

  • -including a specific section in your Bullying and Harassment Policy on sexual harassment and how to deal with it;
  • having a clear policy on expected standards of conduct, both in the office and at work-related social events; and
  • having a Code of Ethics specifically for management which deals with relationships in the workplace and/or with those that they may come into contact with professionally.

Having a management Code of Ethics will place a higher burden on those in a position of authority to conduct themselves appropriately and encourages transparency in respect of any workplace relationships that may conflict with their role. This will allow you, as the employer, to put safeguards in place should you be made aware of a relationship in the workplace, but also allows you to take disciplinary action should it become apparent that an employee has not been conducting themselves in accordance with the code. Such a code could also be clear on the employer’s stance on hosting or attending events that could risk bringing the organisation in to disrepute.