We spend a large portion of our lives at work. It's therefore inevitable that in-between water cooler chats or serving customers, sparks between colleagues – or even between managers and employees – can fly.
But is this legal?
The short answer is yes, you can date someone you work with. However, you will need to comply with the rules and be sensible about it.
Most organisations have rules about relationships in the workplace. These rules are aimed at maintaining professionalism and teamwork. They are also there to prevent abuse.
For example, a manager is not allowed to use their position to attempt to form a relationship with a subordinate. In that situation, there is a power imbalance and a real risk of abuse.
Some workplaces have even more specialised rules. For example, if you belong to a professional body or a Crown-owned organisation (like the Defence Force) there are often additional rules about dating in the workplace.
So if things are heating up between you and someone at work, or have already heated up, make sure you do your research and check to see if any industry-wide rules apply.
It's also important to be transparent with your manager. Let them know as soon as possible if a relationship has formed with someone you work with. It may be an awkward conversation, but it's better to have it sooner rather than later. It's also more likely your manager will support the relationship if he or she is aware of it early.
In general, it's also best to take things out of the workplace. This will help you remain professional. It will also help your colleagues feel more comfortable about the situation.
If you are unhappy with the attention you are receiving from someone you work with, that is not okay. Talk to your manager or someone you trust. Your employer has an obligation to prevent you from being harassed.
If you are unsure about what rules might apply to you, or if someone is harassing you at work and you do not know what to do about it, you can also seek legal advice.
- Julie Schmidt is a solicitor at Frontline Law in Taupō