When personal relationships bleed into workplace relationships there is the potential for explosive issues to arise around sexual harassment, disciplinary offences, inappropriate behaviour and bringing the company or organisation into disrepute.
Office affairs are commonplace, but they can lead to a range of work-related problems, and misconduct issues. What may also occur is that the symptoms of an affair become evident. While the affair remains secret – symptoms such as financial irregularities, a breakdown in a supervisory relationship or accusations of sexual harassment.
In such cases, engaging in sound detective work and gathering evidence are essential.
Rights and Wrongs
There is no reason why an employer should want to have legal control of employees outside work hours. However, what employees choose to do when not in work can have a lasting impact on the workplace.
“Employers may rely on a code of conduct to regulate their employees’ behaviour regarding sexual relationships with one another, but office affairs can lead to misconduct at work,” Tony Smith, Director of Operations at Insight, explains.
This misconduct can range from people in authority giving unauthorised financial bonuses to others, to disciplinary issues followed by sexual harassment counter-claims.
“What might seem on the surface like an office romance unconnected with workplace issues can have long-reaching consequences”
“In terms of fraud and disciplinary actions, it can be financially draining and very time consuming for businesses where employee affairs lead to more serious breaches in behaviour,” Tony observes.
“It is not necessarily good HR practice to ban relationships between co-workers altogether, particularly as this is no guarantee that they will not occur anyway,” explains Tony.
“Where an office affair is suspected as the reason why some form of misconduct has occurred, it will require investigating”
“This is a sensitive area of work culture, and not something an internal HR department can easily conduct on its own without getting into difficulties regarding treatment of employees’ rights,” Tony says. “This is when using a discreet, professional private investigation service is the right solution.”
Tony’s company, Insight, specialises in both private and corporate investigations, and is familiar with situations where the two strands cross over.
“Private detective work isn’t simply conducting surveillance on suspected cheating partners, and nor are corporate investigations restricted to industrial espionage or company fraud,” Tony states. “The two can overlap considerably, where people’s private lives have a clear impact on a business.”