Linklaters tells staff to report office romances
11 May 2018
Linklaters staff have been instructed to inform management about their workplace relationships.
Under new guidance issued by the firm, staff are expected to tell HR or a department head about office romances so that they can be "properly managed in the interests of all of those involved in the relationship
". The global policy was not seeking to ban consensual relationships, said a spokeswoman, or about "prying into personal information
". Instead, it was "about acting as a responsible business by supporting our people
The #MeToo reckoning in law has highlighted how relationships between people of unequal power can lead to problems, and it's those couplings which the firm wants to flush out. Examples of gruesome twosomes the firm said were likely to give rise to "conflicts
" included a partner and a junior lawyer, and a pairing in which one lover could unduly influence the performance review, career progression, promotion, work allocation or remuneration of the other.
It remains to be seen how many people will willingly confess that they are being boffed by a partner, or how many partners will admit that they are having an affair with a trainee*. Or what the firm can usefully do with the information once it has it, other than express consternation and, privately, disgust.
But at least Linklaters is grappling seriously with the issues that can arise from workhorn. In a connected initiative, it has set up an external, independently-run whistleblowing hotline called 'SpeakUp' to enable staff to report unacceptable behaviour. Whistleblowers are not required to leave their name, said Links, so they shouldn't have to worry about reporting their boss to his best pal. And their reports would only be sent to a small group to enable the claim to be investigated, said the firm, and never to anyone named in it. They should of course cc their complaints to RollOnFriday.
The issue of misbehaving men was brought into particularly sharp relief for Linklaters in February, when one of its German partners was convicted of sexually assaulting a work experience student
. If it had been around at the time, perhaps the lawyer who punched him in the face would have used SpeakUp instead.
Look for other right-thinking firms to introduce a similar service for their staff.
*RollOnFriday wonders whether the senior Linklaters lawyer caught having sex with his trainee under his desk a few years ago, whose fiancée "had no idea", would have had the liaison signed off.