WITH Valentine’s Day approaching, employers are being warned about the dangers of letting an office romance fester into an expensive employment tribunal.

The HR Dept Basingstoke & Hart understand that colleagues can naturally become very close, particularly in smaller organisations, but ask how close is too close?

And is it appropriate to include a no dating policy or clause in the company handbook?

The employment specialist say it is not an employer’s place to set rules and regulations about how employees conduct their personal lives, however when it involves two members of staff who are caught up in romance, there can be a lot at stake.

Romantic relationships in work can lead to a host of problems including claims of sexual discrimination and harassment following break ups, favouritism claims or resentment.

According to research conducted by illicitencounters.com 54 per cent of those surveyed admitted to having engaged in workplace romance and 27 per cent to more than one.

Karen Sanders, director at The HR Dept Basingstoke & Hart, said: “We often hear horror stories about the fall out, and expense, that has resulted from an affair in work, as well as the offences caused by inappropriate emails or suggestive gifts. “Problems are particularly magnified around Valentine’s Day.

“Employers cannot dictate an employee’s personal life by including a strict no dating policy, however guidelines can naturally be implemented to avoid potential business heartache.”

Karen is advising employers to adopt the approach that any personal relationships, other than company business, should be conducted outside of work hours and not on company premises.

In large organisations, if a romantic relationship was to begin at work, this would need to be reported to the Human Resources Department and one or both individuals involved maybe transferred to another department.

In smaller organisations however, this may not be possible.

Karen said a smaller business should not be at the hands of its employees with regards to relationships in the workplace, but hopefully a common sense approach and guidelines to suit the business will suffice.