Personal relationship at work between employees

Personal relationships at work can damage an employer’s reputation

In May 2023 Phillip Scofield was forced to leave ITV after he admitted that he had lied to his bosses and work colleagues about his relationship with a junior member of staff previously employed by the television broadcaster. This was a high-profile incident which led to the end of Mr Scofield’s prime time roles at ITV and public criticism of both Mr Scofield and ITV. The knock-on effect for ITV was a significant loss of revenue from its advertisers and sponsors. Many commentators suggested that this incident and subsequent fallout could have been avoided if ITV had banned personal relationships between senior and junior employees. However, does a UK employer have a right to ban personal relationships between employees?

What is the current law?

UK employers have no right to ban personal relationships between employees because of the Human Rights Act. The Courts recognise that employees have a right to privacy in their personal life. This is likely to make any blanket ban on personal relationships at work unenforceable. However, employers are entitled to take certain steps to protect their business interests although these must be balanced against an employee’s rights.

Personal Relationships at Work Policy

In these circumstances the best way for an employer to protect their business interests is by having a robust Personal Relationships at Work Policy, which sets out the rules on what amounts to appropriate conduct at work.

As a minimum, this policy should explain the following:

  • The types of personal relationships it applies to e.g. formal relationships such a being married or living together and less formal relationships such as dating.
  • Its purpose which could include guarding against breaches of confidentiality, conflicts of interest, bias or favouritism.
  • Standards of behaviour expected from staff members who are in a personal relationship.
  • Disciplinary sanctions that apply if there is a breach of the employer’s rules.

Finally, an employer can insist that any type of personal relationship between a senior and junior employee must be disclosed so that safeguards can be put in place for both the business and the employees concerned.

For advice or further information on how to handle personal relationships at work or to obtain a FREE Personal Relationships at Work Policy, call Henry Doswell of Doswell Law Solicitors on 01233 722942. Alternatively, email Henry at

Disclaimer: Whilst every reasonable effort is made to make the information and commentary contained in this blog accurate and up to date, Henry Doswell takes no responsibility for its accuracy and correctness, or for any consequences of relying on it. The information and commentary in this blog does not constitute legal advice to any person on a specific case or matter. You are strongly advised to obtain specific, personal advice from a lawyer about your case or matter.