The Government first announced plans for a shared ownership right to buy in October 2019. At the time the sector raised concerns about the impact the plans would have on housing associations ability to borrow. An election and a pandemic later the Government announced, during the CIH Housing Festival last week, the return of the right to shared ownership as part of its Affordable Homes Programme (AHP).
The roses from Valentine's Day might be rotting in the compost, but for the ex-chief executive of McDonald's, sacked for dating another employee in November 2019, his 14 February was probably a quiet one. Sympathy for Mr Easterbrook and his £37m payout aside, managing workplace relationships is something of a tightrope for employees.
Large US companies such as McDonald’s and Intel have strict "no relationship" clauses, and clearly no one is exempt. These clauses are not so common in the UK, but the issue still remains and is something that needs to be addressed in most workplaces.
Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998, protects the right of an individual to a private life which includes romantic relationships. A draconian workplace "no relationship" clause could fall foul of this right, and so a dismissal for engaging in a consensual romantic relationship would most likely be unfair other than in narrow circumstances. However, employers have the right to outline to employees the kind of behaviour that is expected of them in the workplace. A Code of Conduct and a Bullying and Harassment Policy are examples of this. An employer also has a duty to ensure that an employee can work in a non-threatening environment, free from intimidation and harassment. The law, therefore, offers no clear, practical solution but just two boundaries for an employer to work within. There are essentially two choices; to stay silent on the issue of romantic relationships at work or to draft a policy.
Staying silent on this issue avoids any infringement of the right to privacy, and it could be argued, be more realistic. Are employees going to disclose information about their romantic relationships with their line manager or HR team and does that include "entanglements" at Christmas parties as well? Conversely, it means the employer is ignorant of any non-work relationships that are going on and so unaware of any tensions they may be causing in the workplace to colleagues; and underlying problems when the relationship breaks down, especially if the relationship cuts across the management structure.
We would advise taking the following steps;
- Draft a clear Relationships at Work Policy stating clearly that the purpose of the policy is to ensure that the workplace environment remains a professional one where each employee and worker is treated with dignity and respect. While romantic relationships are not banned, that those employees or workers involved in such relationships are mindful of such boundaries while at work.
- Include in the policy a notification clause whereby employees are asked to disclose any relationship where there is any direct reporting line between the two individuals or other relationship where a conflict of interest could occur and reiterating that all information would be treated in confidence;
- Reiterate the commitment to a workplace free of bullying and harassment;
- Be aware, when relationships break down, of potential discrimination issues if it is necessary for the individuals to work in different teams; ensure that any actions taken are decided based on transparent criterion and are clearly documented; and
- If relevant, ensure the issue of romantic relationships between employees and clients or end-users is addressed somewhere in the staff handbook. This is especially key where clients or end users are vulnerable; if that is the case, it is advisable to address this in the code of conduct and possibly include these types of relationships as examples of gross misconduct. It is also advisable to cross-refer to a social media policy concerning online relationships and the relevant parameters.
For more information
For further advice on any of the issues covered in this e-briefing, please contact Libby Hubbard.
Two final pieces of the possession jigsaw have been published on 15 September 2020. Mr Justice Knowles’ working group on possession proceedings has issued its guidance on the “overall arrangements” for possession proceedings.
One change proposed by the Building Safety Bill is the introduction of a duty holder regime, which will see statutory responsibility for the safety of higher risk buildings placed on key individuals
Throughout this pandemic, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has been publishing various “Statements on Coronavirus” (Statements) which provide guidance on consumer rights during this time.
A recent increase in COVID-19 cases in the UK means new measures are being put in place in an effort to reduce the risk of a second wave. Whilst the impact of COVID-19 continues to be felt, it is important to remain focused on the sector’s road to recovery.
Sometimes half an hour at a conference gives you the reality that has been staring you in the face all along. That was my experience watching “Change is on the Horizon”
Following our recent e-briefing on Possession Notices, Helen Tucker and Emilie Pownall from our housing litigation team discuss the impact of the changes on social landlords.
Not only has the possession stay been extended until 20 September, the notice periods to be given to tenants has been extended in certain circumstances with some important exceptions.
The Court has confirmed that a party cannot withhold its consent in order to re-write the original bargain.
Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, building safety continues to be a key concern for social housing providers and their residents.
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