By Max Clarke
Hopeless romantics could face more than just heartache if their workplace advances are rejected this Valentine's.
As Valentine’s Day approaches, experts warn that workers who express their affection for a colleague with a card or flowers could land both themselves and their bosses in court.
Sending cards or flowers, making romantic suggestions, or compliments on appearance could potentially become the object of a sexual harassment case according to Peter Mooney, head of consultancy at ELAS.
Peter said: “Valentine’s Day can be a minefield for both employers and employees. It doesn’t matter how heartfelt or innocent the act is, if it’s capable of causing offence, then it can quickly become a serious matter.
“It’s difficult to define what constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace, so it is very much open to interpretation. What seems like friendly banter or an innocent compliment could be construed by a staff member as inappropriate and unwelcome sexual attention.
“And it is an employer’s job to provide a workplace that is free from intimidating, degrading, or offensive behaviour. So a staff member making an amorous gesture to a colleague could mean a disciplinary offence for them and a potentially an unlimited award for the company.”
Advice for employers from ELAS:
1. Do not allow staff to use internal mail systems to deliver non-work related post
2. Remind staff about workplace policies
3. Remind managers to be vigilant about any behaviour that could be construed as inappropriate
4. Any staff member behaving inappropriately should be warned that their actions could be considered a disciplinary offence
5. Remember, men can be victims of sexual harassment too, don’t dismiss complaints of female to male or same sex harassment.