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“Love Contracts”: can employers stop relationships at work?

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“Love Contracts”: can employers stop relationships at work?

06 Nov 2019

News that McDonald’s chief executive officer, Steve Easterbrook, has recently been fired following a consensual relationship with a colleague at work has provoked surprise amongst many in the media. McDonald’s said that he had violated their company policy on relationships at work, which led to a conflict of interest.

This news comes off the back of Intel’s chief executive Brian Krzanich stepping down last year, again for having a consensual relationship with an employee.

Considering that so many people meet their partners at work, relationships between staff are inevitable and regulation can seem like a difficult, if not embarrassing, concept.

Often, as in the McDonald’s case, such rules are applied to those in more senior positions within an organisation.

So-called “love contracts” – which are popular in the US – can impose rules against relationships at work. They are not in principle unlawful, provided that they do not fall foul of discrimination laws. Properly drafted contractual provisions and policies can be very helpful in addressing some of the key risks that usually arise, including:

  • the risks to confidentiality (“pillow talk”);
  • conflicts of interest arising;
  • the lack of transparency in workplace matters, especially if there is are line management responsibilities between the two individuals;
  • the impact the relationships can have on other employees and how the individuals in the relationship behave at work;
  • if the relationship breaks down, where harassment can arise, and whether you can lawfully redeploy or even remove one of the individuals from the business and what the resulting legal risks of discrimination and harassment are.

If this is something that you believe could impact your business, please contact us or call our employment team on 0161 832 3434.

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