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Herbert Smith Freehills follows Linklaters in asking lawyers to disclose office romances

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Staff urged to use ‘common sense’

Herbert Smith Freehills. Image credit: Instagram (@totakimateusz)

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) has become the second City outfit to ask its partners, lawyers and support staff to disclose office romances.

The new global policy will, according to HSF, “provide a framework to deal sensitively, consistently and fairly with personal relationships which may affect the business”. The fresh guidance, Personal Relationships in the Workplace, isn’t intended to prohibit lawyers from having a personal relationship “with a work colleague, client or supplier”, HSF stressed, but is about staff using “common sense” when deciding whether or not to disclose romantic liaisons.

The advice — which forms part of an update to HSF’s Global Dignity at Work policy — follows a similar relationship-related move by Linklaters. Earlier this month, the magic circle player urged its lawyers to disclose work romances to “an office, group or practice head or HR contact” to ensure “any actual or potential conflict of interest” is properly managed.

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Back to HSF and the firm has also launched an external whistleblowing hotline called Faircall. The new service, which is run and monitored by accountancy titan KPMG, allows staff to report concerns about behaviour such as “professional wrongdoing, harassment or other misconduct”. Linklaters launched a similar service, SpeakUp, earlier this month, too.

Commenting on the new guidance and hotline, HSF’s CEO, Mark Rigotti, said:

“We are committed to providing a safe and supportive workplace culture, where people behave in a way that is appropriate and considerate to others, and to recognise the duty of care we owe each other. We want to make sure people are empowered to speak up if they are concerned about behaviours such as professional wrongdoing, harassment or other misconduct.”

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27 Comments

K&E rat (a kind one)

I think city firms better start replacing humans with robots. It seems as if they’re turning humans into robots anyway.

(17)(1)

Anonymous

What’s romance?

(7)(1)

Anonymous

It’s a bit like bromance but going balls deep.

(17)(0)

Anonymous

GDPR??

(26)(0)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(6)(1)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(0)(0)

Partner

Ah , now you’re using terms I understand.

(0)(0)

Judge Hobosexual

Good thing Katie doesn’t work there or she’s have to disclose her obsessive shrine-building crush on lady hale

(21)(0)

s.32 Salmon Act 1986

Nope. Unrequited obsession is outside the scope of the policy.

(28)(0)

Judge Hobosexual

Shhhh don’t say it’s unrequited, Katie might be reading this

(1)(0)

Lady Hale

No no, she knows.

(19)(0)

Katie

Oh no, lady Hail, why don’t you love me? How many more articles do I have to write??

(1)(2)

Lady Hale

Hah. The real KK would never misspell my name. Amateur.

(10)(0)

Anonymous

We disclose our “office romances” over drinks and overenthusiastic high-fives every evening.

(7)(1)

Anonymous

This is such BOLLOCKS. How can these firms think they can tell their employees what they can and cannot do in their free time. Unbelievable

BUT it could be worse. You could be beasted and work a battery chicken farm like CMS.

(25)(2)

Anonymous

Simple really. When relationships go wrong in the workplace the employer may well find themselves liable for any subsequent claims. See S109 of the Equality Act 2010 and note the statutory defence.

Bonking clients I had always understood was a professional ethics issue.

Given that there is nothing whatsoever in this policy that tries to prevent relationships I do not understand the problem.

(1)(3)

Anonymous

I can think of a few reasons why its problematic.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Free time? Are you having a laugh sunshine?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

HR – so renowned for their common sense.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

Others should follow, but again some will disclose, some will not. There are trainees going out with partners (married, with kids), then qualifying in the same department as the partner… all open with the knowledge of HR. Sadly, a ticking bomb waiting to explode

(2)(1)

Anonymous

Methinks HSF HR have been watching too much Designated Survivor – Kendra would be proud! HSF certainly steaming ahead on the more “controversial” issues – disclosing work relationships, paying for gender reassignment surgery – great stuff for the new graduate recruitment brochure…..

(3)(0)

Anonymous

aka the in-house sex offenders register…

(1)(0)

Anon.

Rise of the day care centre for grown-ups.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

And what do they think they can actually use this information for? Playing with fire to say the least.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Do not use!

(0)(0)

Anonymous

They use it at magic circle firms, like CC or Links!

(0)(0)

Grim faced Puritan hypocrite

The only way to get rid of office relationships is to make them mandatory. Human beings being what we are, anything forbidden (even if only lightly frowned upon) immediately becomes more attractive. These new policies probably will lead to more cubicle passion, not less. If I was young single and back in the City job I had in the 90s, I’d not so much as look sideways at anybody; would shun closed-room one-on-one meetings, lunches, department drinks dos and firm parties and generally be a right tedious git with 100% office / private-life separation – only guaranteed way to keep your job. Not that big of a hardship either; lawyers aren’t overly interesting as a rule, you’d have far more fun with a separate non-lawyer circle well away from work; and, certainly in London, not hard to have a rich social life with nary a lawyer or work colleague in sight. So many work relationships are down to mere laziness.

(0)(0)

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