Know your rights: Are you allowed to have a relationship with a colleague in Spain?

Know your rights: Are you allowed to have a relationship with a colleague in Spain?
Photo: borjomi88/Depositphotos
Many in Spain were perplexed at the news earlier this month that McDonald’s boss Steve Easterbrook was fired from his job as head of UK operations for having a consensual relationship with an employee. Surely this is something that happens all the time, people said.

So, can you really be fired for it?

According to a survey conducted by job search website Infojobs in 2018, one in three Spanish workers between the ages of 20 and 45 have had a romantic relationship with someone at work.

And 45 percent of those have ended up as a couple.

So it will come as a relief to those who have their eye on a co-worker that in fact in Spain there is no such thing as an inappropriate relationship between colleagues.

In fact, being fired for having a relationship at work is strictly against Spain’s labour laws as the worker’s right to privacy and non-discrimination is enshrined in the employment charter as fundamental rights.

Article 17 in the Statute of Workers expressly prohibits any type of discrimination against the worker based on kinship ties – who they are related to or in a relationship with.  

Are workers obliged to inform their bosses if a relationship blossoms?

Photo: Depositphotos

Again, no.

Workers are not legally obliged to inform anyone of the any relationship they may be having, although there may be internal codes that oblige workers to declare if there is a possibility of a conflict of interest, such as a relationship with a potential client or when one of those in the partnership is more senior than the other.

For example, if one individual is responsible for the other’s appraisals, pay reviews, promotion opportunities and even work allocation, then there is danger of perceived favouritism, so it might contravene internal working codes.

In this case, notification of the relationship should be given, and solutions sought.

What about if the relationship affects the job?

Employers are well within their rights to fire a worker if there is a drop in productivity but this must be carried out following the disciplinary process, with warnings given etc.

What is absolutely not allowed, is to terminate a contract based on the sole fact of a person being in a relationship with someone else.

Depending on the nature of the jobs of those involved with each other, it could be argued that both taking time off at the same time (either for holidays, parental leave etc) could be detrimental to the running of the company and maybe frowned upon.

But legally it’s difficult for employers to terminate a contract based on this issue alone.

Is it a good idea?

With so many hours spent in the workplace it is inevitable that so many relationships start there. But keep the flirtations away from the workplace itself.

According to infojobs survey, around a third of co-worker affairs start with a drink ‘afterwork’, two out of ten are the result of a casual encounter and 8 percent start with a kiss at the Christmas party.

Photo: Depositphotos. 

READ MORE:  Working in Spain: These are the days off you could be entitled to


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