Are you worried about office romances creating drama, conflict, and even legal issues in your workplace? Feeling unsure about how to regulate workplace dating in a safe and measured way? Then it's time to think about a dating policy for your business. A survey from Adzuna found that 66% of workers in the UK have had a romantic relationship with a colleague, so this is certainly something employers should address. It might seem like a huge undertaking, but with a few simple steps, you can ensure employee safety and create a drama-free workplace!
Here's a guide on how to create a dating policy in 2023 that will help you manage workplace relationships in a way that benefits everyone.
Why you need a dating policy
First things first, let's talk about why your company needs a dating policy. While it's totally normal for coworkers to develop feelings for one another (hello, Tim and Dawn from The Office), having employees dating can get tricky. It can lead to accusations of favouritism, awkwardness, and even harassment. It's not necessarily that you want to prevent your employees from falling in love — but rather, you want the romantic relationships that do develop in your workplace to be handled appropriately without disrupting business operations.
A workplace dating policy should establish clear guidelines for employees who may be interested in pursuing a romantic relationship with a coworker. This also prevents conflicts of interest that may arise when two employees in a romantic relationship work together, or when a supervisor is dating a subordinate. Such relationships can create perceived favouritism and potentially compromise the integrity of work-related decisions.
Overall, the purpose of a workplace dating policy is ensuring that the workplace is a professional and respectful environment, where all employees feel safe and valued.
Creating your policy
- Define what your policy covers: Before you draft your policy, you need to decide what kind of relationships you want to address. Do you want to prohibit all romantic relationships between coworkers? Do you want to allow them, but with certain restrictions? Maybe you want to only prohibit relationships between managers and subordinates. Identify what kind of relationships you want to cover and what specific rules you want to put in place. In reality, banning all office relationships is likely ineffective — it probably won’t stop relationships from happening at work, and will instead result in secrecy and employees disengaging. We recommend compiling a comprehensive policy instead, outlining what is and is not appropriate.
- Write a clear policy: Once you know what you want to cover, it's time to write up your policy. Your policy should be clear, concise, and easy to understand. It should include who it applies to, what it covers, how to disclose a relationship, and the consequences of violating the policy. Be sure to consult with legal counsel to ensure that your policy is legally sound.
- Communicate the policy to your employees: Your policy won't do any good if your employees aren't aware of it. Make sure to communicate your policy clearly to all employees, whether through a company-wide email, a meeting, or both. You should also provide training to your managers so they know how to handle situations involving relationships between employees. Ensure that the training and policy have been fully engaged with, and that all employees understand what the rules are.
- Enforce the policy fairly and consistently: Once your policy is in place, it's important to enforce it fairly and consistently. You don't want to play favourites or discriminate against certain employees. If someone violates the policy, make sure to apply the consequences equally. This also means leading by example; as an employer your employees mustn’t see you ignoring a policy that you made.
- Take feedback on board: Employee engagement matters, and studies have shown that more ‘authoritarian’ workplaces are bad for engagement. Employees want to feel like they have more control over how they work, so if they have feedback on the policy that aligns with the vision of safety and fairness, it’s worth taking it on board!
If you're an employer who wants to create a positive and professional work environment, then it's time to consider implementing a dating policy. By being clear about what's allowed and what isn't, you can help prevent awkward situations and potential legal issues, while also promoting a workplace culture of respect and professionalism.