Sex, love and dress codes

More than half of British bosses think it is not an abuse of power to have a relationship with a more junior colleague, while almost a quarter of businesswomen have been groped by a senior colleague or a client, according to a new survey from the Aziz Corporation.

In these supposedly enlightened times, one might think that the days of the sleazy manager with his busy hands were over, but a survey from The Aziz Corporation suggests otherwise. Almost all managers (83 per cent) believe it is acceptable to seek a romantic relationship at work, while 53 per cent see nothing amiss with a relationship with a junior colleague. 29 per cent have had a long-term relationship, and 35 per cent a fling, with a colleague.

Furthermore, one in eight (13 per cent) have had sex or ‘intimate relations’ in the workplace, with more than a quarter (28 per cent) having sent flirtatious emails to a colleague.

‘It appears it is now more acceptable to mix business and pleasure,’ comments Professor Khalid Aziz, chairman of The Aziz Corporation. ‘The shared intensity of the workplace has, for a long time, acted to ignite passions and, with our culture of long working hours, this looks set to continue.

‘The boundaries of ‘normal’ business behaviour have become increasingly hazy and many companies find themselves in uncharted territory,’ he continues. ‘It can be difficult, and indeed unlawful, to ban workplace relationships. The recent decision by the Equal Opportunities Commission whereby lewd emails now constitute a form of sexual harassment should be a warning to workers that sending raunchy emails may get them a rather different response to the one they bargained for.’

Another workplace survey, by YouGov for Croner, reveals that most workers think women are given far more leeway than men when it comes to flouting dress codes in the hot weather.

‘While it can seem relatively harmless to some people, an unequal dress code policy can have serious implications on business, affecting employee morale, increasing tension and potentially leading to complaints of discrimination,’ Richard Smith, employment services director at Croner says. ‘If employers are going to allow women to wear summer spaghetti-strap tops and flip-flops, they must make equal allowances for men to relax the rules.

‘What this means in practice is that employers must have a clear dress code policy that is enforced equally for both men and women. If dress code rules are relaxed in the summer, employers should state what is acceptable attire taking care to ensure equal provisions for men and women. They should also make it clear that failure to adhere to the code could lead to disciplinary action,’ he concludes.

Marc Barber

Marc Barber

Marc was editor of GrowthBusiness from 2006 to 2010. He specialised in writing about entrepreneurs, private equity and venture capital, mid-market M&A, small caps and high-growth businesses.