So, it’s that time of year: Valentine’s day
Viewed by cynics as nothing more than a commercial gimmick, to hopeless romantics it provides a window of opportunity to wear their heart on their sleeve and confess their true feelings. What if those feelings are for a co-worker?
Love it or loathe it, Valentine’s day will probably be acknowledged in some shape or form in workplaces across the country. The question is how to navigate it without ending up in hot water or even the Employment Tribunal.
Here are my top five tips:
- Avoid giving gifts or making romantic gestures in the office. Aside from the potential of being left red-faced if you are rebuffed, it could amount to sexual harassment. The recipient may raise a grievance about it and you could find yourself the subject of disciplinary proceedings. Depending on your disciplinary record, that card with the “cheeky” message could land you a final written warning (or even your P45).
- Also to be avoided: making jokes at others’ expense. It might seem particularly witty to quip that Royal Mail is having put on an “additional service” to deal with the sheer volume of John “from IT”’s cards. However, you do not know what is going on in John’s life. John may be going through a divorce. John may be suffering from depression, or recently have experienced a bereavement. What you consider “banter” John may allege amounts to bullying, something few employers will tolerate in the workplace.
- Best not to shower compliments on the object of your affection, especially if they report in to you. Bosses hold a position of power and responsibility. As well as harassment, your unwanted advances could amount to a breach of trust and confidence entitling the employee to resign and claim they were constructively dismissed. The end result could be you being called as a witness in the Employment Tribunal, or worse still having to defend a claim against you personally.
- Using work email or instant messenger to proclaim undying love is neither romantic nor sensible. Most employers have the right to monitor employees’ communications so you can’t bank on that “private” message remaining so (disgruntled John from IT may be looking). Your employer’s IT/communications policy may also prohibit inappropriate language and content, breach of which will potentially be a disciplinary offence. Be old-fashioned and send a card instead (preferably outside work hours and off work premises).
- Interns: no go zone. Full stop.
The articles published on this website, current at the date of publication, are for reference purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your own circumstances should always be sought separately before taking any action.