10 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. 

  #YouTwo?

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.
Tip Off ROF

Comments

Anonymous 11 May 18

If I was having a relationship with a colleague, the last people I would tell would be HR! Strongly recommend anyone, male or female, not to use this facility.

Anonymous 11 May 18

"But at least Linklaters is grappling seriously with the issues that can arise from workhorn". Too little waaaay too late for that place.

Anonymous 11 May 18

I think it unlikely anyone seriously expects many relationships to be reported, this is more likely to be designed to allow links to more easily fire either or both of the parties if things go wrong, based on failure to report.

Anonymous 11 May 18

@09:40 - yes, they won't due to lack of trust, but would still advise against using the facility in case anyone is tempted. Will be interesting to see whether not disclosing a relationship would be valid grounds for dismissal.

Would be good if ROF were able to follow up on this in say a year's time to see how many people used the facility. Also, are third parties expected to inform management of relationships that they're aware of but not involved in?

Anonymous 11 May 18

Do you have to tell if you give someone a bj in a stationery cupboard at a drinks reception but otherwise mostly ignore them?

Asking for a friend.

Anonymous 11 May 18

Ridiculous. When you’ve had a drink after work? Kissed? Shagged for the first time? Partners first please.

Anonymous 11 May 18

This is not new - I worked at a US firm in London in the early 2000s that had the same policy, and people did adhere to it (sometimes).

Anonymous 11 May 18

@10:57 - interesting, any idea roughly what percentage of people adhered to the policy? Would have thought mostly people in long-term relationships at a similar level in the firm's hierarchy would report rather than short term relationships or one-night stands.

Anonymous 11 May 18

Had a similar policy here for years, although I doubt any of my colleagues have ever read it. If there is an impact, one or both parties can be moved to different departments but, ultimately, dismissal is stated to be a last resort if an appropriate solution cannot be found.

Anonymous 11 May 18

If tested, and it probably won't be soon given (a) most people are just not going to report; and (b) if there are issues invariably they are settled in this sort of area outside the courts/employment tribunals by law firms, it would be very interesting (though I understand the reasons for it given recent events) to see if this policy is legal given the ECHR Right to Privacy.

Can't see how it can be.

Roll On Friday 11 May 18

Best to avoid relationships at work. Simple rule which works well for most people. There are plenty of other people on the planet than your work colleagues.

I once went out a few times with someone I met via his work ( we didn't work at the same place but his rules were quite strict at his work) and it was quite amusing that before anything like touching had happened - I just after just 2 dinners he made a formal report to HR. I didn't even know if I liked him. It just seemed rather jumping the gun. Like putting an engagement announcement in the Times or telling your parenst when you've just seen someone twice.

Anonymous 11 May 18

"properly managed in the interests of all of those involved in the relationship". - so not only will you get nagged by your other half, but HR will nag you too...

Anonymous 11 May 18

Relationships need to be reported so they can be "properly managed in the interests of all of those involved in the relationship"?? So many things wrong with this proposition...

Anonymous 11 May 18

While I wouldn't go as far as advising against relationships at work, as many people meet at work and go on to enjoy long and happy relationships, or enjoy short term encounters with colleagues, I would advise using common sense.

Anonymous 11 May 18

I suspect the policy is being put in place to send a message to highlight abuse of power situations and discourage them. I agree that it feels like too little too late from this firm though...

Anonymous 11 May 18

Not all workplace relationships are abuses of power though, and those which aren't are not really the employer's business.

Anonymous 12 May 18

I fail to see how this policy can in any way be made enforceable is penalties be imposed for failing to comply with it. About a million provisions of employment and privacy law against it I’d imagine. NB I do not know anything about either field of law.

Anonymous 12 May 18

Indeed. One HR advisor I know at Links used to loudly talk about how she shaved her legs every day in case she managed to land a partner there.

Anonymous 12 May 18

Someone needs to keep a tally so the Cup can be fairly awarded at the partner's retreat every year. This might just do it.

Anonymous 14 May 18

This is hilarious. The number of partner and junior associate/trainee relationships/hook ups/drama after work drinks or retreats is insane. Silk Street HR generally already knows (because the entire group does) and can do nothing unless the management team want one or both parties out

Anonymous 18 May 18

Hmm, tricky one. A lot of happily married couples I know met their partner in their workplace me included!

Anonymous 18 May 18

Makes life interesting if you work for a firm of swingers. I suggest an app to speed up the reporting... hang on.. is this how Face Book started??

Anonymous 20 May 18

Totally unacceptable breach of privacy. Who do the managers, that come up with this nonsense, think they are?

I hope the staff have the courage to tell management where to put this.

Anonymous 21 May 18

This is an ABSOLUTELY TERRIBLE idea. Linklaters is doing this so they, and not a plaintiff's lawyer or other employee advocate, get first crack at the complaint so they can maneuver and marginalize it. IF YOU'RE THE VICTIM OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT DO NOT USE THIS HOTLINE UNTIL YOU'VE HIRED A LAWYER.

Please note that comments are subject to moderation.