A Healthcare Employer's Guide to Handling Employee Relationships
Romance in your healthcare practice can be tricky and can have a negative effect on your business if not managed properly.
While it’s natural for people to be attracted to each other in the workplace, it’s important to remember that relationships between colleagues can have a damaging effect on morale, productivity, and even legal issues. To avoid potential problems, it’s important to establish clear policies and procedures for office romances.
How the #MeToo Movement Affects Romance in the Workplace
The #MeToo Movement has had a tremendous impact on the way workplace romances are perceived and managed, especially when it comes to issues of power and consent. Companies have had to implement new policies to ensure that all employees are aware that any kind of physical contact or sexual advances without explicit consent is unacceptable and subject to disciplinary action.
Additionally, any kind of romantic relationship between employees, supervisors, or employees and clients must be disclosed to prevent potential conflicts of interest. Overall, the #MeToo Movement has brought about an increased awareness of the potential for abuse of power dynamics and created a culture of respect and consent in the workplace.
How Employers Should Handle Romance in Their Healthcare Practice
As an employer, you should handle romance in your healthcare practice, whether dental, veterinary, optometry, or other with care and caution.
It is important to set clear expectations from the start and make sure employees understand the policies and implications of their relationships. You should create a written policy that outlines expectations for employees who are in a consensual romantic relationship, such as prohibiting displays of public affection and requiring that the relationship not interfere with the work environment.
It is also important to establish a process for managing potential conflicts of interest that can arise in the practice, such as when two employees are in a romantic relationship and one supervises the other. You should also be mindful of the potential for sexual harassment and ensure that employees who enter into a relationship are aware of their rights and responsibilities.
Finally, you should ensure that you are providing a safe and comfortable work environment, and that you take any complaints of inappropriate behavior seriously.
Inform Employees of Expectations and Consequences
As mentioned, be sure your employees are aware of the potential risks of romances in the workplace. Remind them that when a relationship begins, it’s important to disclose it to their manager and HR. This will help to avoid any potential conflict of interest and ensure that the relationship is not being conducted inappropriately.
It is also important to ensure that any relationships do not interfere with the professional working environment or cause any disruption or discomfort to other colleagues. If any issues arise, it’s important to address them quickly and fairly.
Make sure that your healthcare practice's policies and procedures on workplace romances are well documented and communicated to all employees. That way, everyone is aware of the rules and expectations and can ensure that any relationships are conducted in an appropriate manner. This is best done in your employee handbook.
How Can an Employee Handbook Regulate Workplace Romance in a Healthcare Practice?
Your employee handbook should include a code of conduct that outlines appropriate behavior when interacting with coworkers, including limits on physical contact and expectations for maintaining professional boundaries.
The handbook should state the consequences for violations of the policies, such as suspension or termination. By having a clear and comprehensive policy in place, healthcare practice owners can ensure that workplace relationships are kept professional and appropriate.
Recommended Reading: Why Your Employee Handbook and Benefits Must Align
The Do's and Don't's for Practice Owners, Employers, and HR Managers When it Comes to Workplace Relationships
- Establish a clear workplace conduct policy that outlines acceptable behavior among employees.
- Encourage employees to be respectful and courteous of one another.
- Promote an environment of trust and open communication.
- Provide education and training on workplace dynamics and how to handle conflicts professionally.
- Foster a culture of transparency, respect, and inclusivity.
- Discriminate against potential or existing relationships between employees.
- Allow gossiping or rumors to spread in the workplace.
- Take sides in any disagreements between employees.
- Tolerate any type of harassment or bullying.
- Pressure employees to enter into or terminate a relationship.
Example Policy for Workplace Romance
HR for Health will add a Workplace Romance Policy into your employee handbook, if requested. However, if you do not use HR for Health, you can adapt the below example into your handbook.
"At [Company Name], we recognize that workplace romances can occur. That is why we have created the following policies to ensure that such relationships are handled in an appropriate and respectful manner:
1. All employees should disclose their relationship status to their supervisor or HR department upon the start of their relationship.
2. Employees in a workplace romance should not share confidential information with their partner.
3. Employees in a workplace romance should not use their positions to gain favor with their partner.
4. Employees in a workplace romance should not use company resources for their relationship.
5. Employees in a workplace romance should not display affection in the workplace.
6. Employees in a workplace romance should be aware of the potential conflict of interest that may occur and take appropriate steps to address the situation.
7. Employees in a workplace romance should be aware that their relationship may be terminated if it has a negative impact on the work environment.
8. Employees in a workplace romance should be aware that they may be subject to disciplinary action if their relationship is in violation of company policy.
At [Company Name], we strive to maintain a safe and respectful work environment for all employees. We hope that these policies will help to ensure that workplace romances are handled in a respectful and appropriate manner."
How HR for Health Can Help
HR for Health can help with workplace romance issues in a number of ways. First and foremost, we can help create policies within your employee handbook that define appropriate behavior in the workplace, including guidelines for romantic relationships.
Our team of HR professionals can also help to educate you, your managers, and your supervisors on how to identify, address and handle workplace romantic relationships, and provide resources for guidance on how to handle these situations.
Finally, our team is available by phone or support ticket to help provide guidance and advise on any conflicts that may arise from workplace romances.