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Working Relationships

ARTICLE ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED FEBRUARY 2013

Christmas and New year parties are now a dim and distant memory and Valentine’s Day has now passed. These are both occasions when romance in the workplace can blossom. This can be totally positive; but relationships at work can also create a mass of issues for Salon owners and Managers irrespective of whether the relationship flourishes or rapidly loses its sparkle! Here are just a few of the questions from readers who have clearly had this experience!

QUESTION 1 - Can I have a policy which says that staff who are married can’t work in the same salon?

In my view no. If you had 2 applicants whichever didn’t get appointed could claim discrimination based on their sex or marital status. But in reality it isn’t workable. Two applicants might be in a relationship but not married or living together, It might be that an applicant has applied specifically because they are in a relationship with someone in the salon. What do you do if two staff start a relationship, do they have to declare it and how do you decide which one has to move? Some application forms ask applicants if they have any relationships with existing employees but remember friends and family working together can be positive as well as negative.

QUESTION 2 - Is it possible to put something in my Contracts banning staff from having romantic relationships with colleagues at work?

I understand why you might like to do so but I think it is impractical and would refer to the answer above. From an employment law perspective the issue really is what do you do if it happens? Do you discipline one or both.? Do you decide one has to leave and if so, who? It is easy to see how a claim for sex discrimination can easily materialize. I think it is only likely to result in relationships becoming hidden, and, when is a brief fling a relationship?

QUESTION 3 - We have just had a really uncomfortable few months after 2 staff ended their 3 year relationship and this caused immense friction in the salon and also between staff groups. I know I can’t ban staff from seeing colleagues outside of work but how can I limited and impact in my salon?

I think it is often best just to speak to the employees directly regarding your expectations. The issue is potentially more serious if one of the individuals has a supervisory role and obvious concerns about management, fairness , equality etc can surface. The bottom line is that the relationship should not be visible to clients or impact on the business, if it does then it would become a disciplinary issue.

QUESTION 4 - This morning the husband of my senior stylist came into the salon and an argument and then a wrestling match ensued with one of the male staff. He had discovered an extra marital affair within the Salon. The incident was in full view of all the clients. Can I sack them both?

Unfortunately this sort of thing can happen! I understand entirely why you would be annoyed that their actions have impacted on the salon. However ignoring the actual incident we need to go back and ask what is the legal position? To dismiss them you have to view their actions as gross misconduct. Potentially the male employee might be guilty of gross misconduct in terms of the fight and the impact on clients who witnesses it. But it might be that he was attacked and was the innocent party. It is much more difficult , in terms of your disciplinary procedure, to think what your senior stylist guilty of ? She doesn’t seem to invited her husband to assault her colleague and you advised wasn’t even in the salon at the time.

There might be a case for suspending one or both of them but you need to carry out a fact finding interview before deciding what , if any, action to take. In my experience by the time you carry out the interview one or both of them will have decided that they cannot return to work for one of a number of reasons.

QUESTION 5 - The senior stylist in the Salon Is married to the Manager and they book their holidays together. They also book Christmas off together every year. Is there anything I can do about it?

In reality probably very little. I understand entirely why it doesn’t seem fair and this is another issue with couples working together. You do not indicate who actually authorises the holidays? If it is the Manager I think you can only raise the problem with him or her or raise it as an issue for all of the staff. You can also potentially raise a grievance with the salon owner asking for some booking rules to be agreed so times like Christmas or other desirable holiday period are shared.

QUESTION 6 - My boyfriend and I both work in the same salon and he has been dismissed from the salon for alleged theft. The salon owner is saying that I have to leave as well, Is this fair or correct?

I am afraid fairness isn’t the issue, if the law is applied properly that is all that is required. It is rare that employees will all agree any decision by an employer is “fair”. There is no fundamental reason why you have to leave. I appreciate why you might find I difficult to continue working there.

If the salon owner believes you were somehow involved directly or indirectly with your boyfriend then they would need to follow their disciplinary procedure. You cannot simply be asked to leave and you certainly shouldn’t resign.



David Wright Personnel

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