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04 October 2023

Office affair? Declare it in writing, says UK boss

Picture used for illustrative purposes only. (GETTY IMAGES)

By Reuters

A local authority in Britain was accused by union bosses on Tuesday of planning an "Orwellian dictat" by compelling staff to write to their manager to reveal any office romance they had with a co-worker.

The proposal is contained in a draft policy on relationships at work produced by human resources officials at Fenland District Council, which covers a rural area in central England north of Cambridge.

"Any employee who embarks on a close personal relationship with a colleague working in the same team must declare the relationship to his/her manager in writing," the document said, adding the details would go on the employees' personal files.

Furthermore, the policy warns that "intimate behavior during work time is not acceptable."

"This applies during all working time (not flexed off time), both on and off Council sites," the document added. "Any breach of this could be regarded as a disciplinary offence ... leading to disciplinary action."

The Trades Union Congress, Britain's union umbrella body, condemned the proposal, saying workers should not have to disclose details about their private lives outside office time, which their bosses probably did not want to know about either.

"It's quite common for relationships to start in the office, but having to declare your feelings via the HR department is hardly the most romantic way to make a move," said Sarah Veale, TUC Head of Employment Rights.

"Whilst it's important for employers to tackle inappropriate behavior at work, laying down Orwellian dictats about people's personal lives will simply generate resentment among staff."

The draft policy is due to be discussed by councilors later this month.