Lover’s charter? You cannot be serious . . .

Jan 25 2004 by Brian Amble Print This Article

A British city council is considering introducing a ‘Register of Workplace Relationships’ in which staff would have to declare any relationship with a colleague that goes beyond the strictly professional - anything from being good friends out of hours to having a full-blown love affair.

The proposal for Lancaster City Council, which employs 1,000 people, has been leaked to the media while still in an early draft form and is already causing a furore.

Richard Loader, an official from the Unison Union described it as “hugely offensive and intrusive into people's private lives."

"It would be embarrassing if you have to go to your manager to tell them ‘I’ve just asked Joan from finance if she would like to go to the cinema tonight.’

"It is ridiculous. Our members are extremely concerned because they could see their rights to privacy and personal confidentiality being compromised by such an intrusive document.”

The idea appears in a three-page draft proposal called ‘Continuing Close Personal Relationships At Work’ drawn up by Mark Cullinan, the council’s chief executive.

The intention of the document is apparently to provide complete transparency in the council’s dealings and to ensure that personal relationships do not impact the council’s work.

But Paul Gardner, chairman of the council’s personnel committee, said that he had not seen the draft document and that the reports about what it contained "rather surprised" him.

Mr Loader said that his union would be seeking talks with the council if the idea was taken any further.

"What it is doing is proceduralising the old code of conduct existing between officers,” he said. ”They are saying if you are having a relationship with another member of staff you must declare it to your manager or chief officer so you can avoid any situation where any major decisions could be compromised.

"I suggest what has happened is they have had a potential problem in the past. I cannot imagine they are trying to make bad law out of that.”