Ipswich: Council workers asked to tell managers about office romances and close friendships

Grafton House, the home of Ipswich Borough Council  in Russell Road Grafton House, the home of Ipswich Borough Council in Russell Road

Tuesday, May 20, 2014
5:53 PM

Bosses at Ipswich Council have denied claims that they are trying to monitor staff relationships following the publication of a new code of conduct.

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This requires staff to tell their managers about close personal relationships they have with other members of staff, with councillors, or with outside contractors and suppliers that might work with the council.

The term “close personal relationship” is defined as any family relationship or any sexual or romantic relationship – whether short or long-term.

It can also include close personal friendships which are non-sexual or romantic.

The instruction that managers should be told about “short-term” relationships has sparked concerns that the authority could end up prying into the personal lives of staff who might engage in a drunken fumble at the end of a party.

However a spokesman for the authority insisted the code only applied when there was a risk of a conflict of interest arising – and council leader David Ellesmere insisted the borough’s code was merely a matter of “common sense.”

He said: “This is really in place to protect our staff against claims that they might show favour to someone they are close to – it is really a matter of common sense.

“It is something that is fairly common. We are not banning relationships – but we need to know if they are going to impact on council business.”

Employment lawyer Julie Temple of Quantrills said codes of conduct like this were not uncommon across businesses and the public sector – but employers needed to be aware of the risk posed by privacy laws under human rights legislation.

She said: “I can see what the council is trying to do by introducing this code of conduct and I can understand that they see it as necessary.

“However I think it is almost certain that someone somewhere will challenge a code like this under human rights legislation.”

A council spokesman added: “The code only requires employees to disclose, in confidence, to their line manager any close personal relationships where there is a risk of a conflict of interest arising.”

He added: “Examples where an employee would be expected to disclose a close personal relationship include cases where an employee’s spouse or partner is the managing director of a company bidding for a council contract.

“Internally the code would be applied where two employees who both work for the council are in a close relationship and one is responsible for managing the other or could be involved in selection for promotion or redundancy.”

10 comments

  • Dear Mr Manager, I thought you ought to know that I took Miss Jones over her desk from behind !, I know that an employee is not supposed to use company furniture for ones own use.......but for gods sake I'm human !!

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    freedomf

    Thursday, May 22, 2014

  • why this now & the bin men taking the council to court via ben Gummer? News worthy but the day before the local election? Just smacks a bit of errr vote tory from this errr paper?

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    JC

    Wednesday, May 21, 2014

  • It must be a slow news day or what...... There's nothing in this story: unless you're Ipswich Entrepreneur who has a shelf full of books about the Grassy Knoll, believes astronauts never walked on the moon and thinks Elvis is alive and co-habiting with Michael Jackson.

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    skrich

    Tuesday, May 20, 2014

  • IBC must be a shambles if this is a brand new policy. Private and public sector and voluntary sector organisations have had them in place for years. The article doesn't state who claimed IBC were snooping. This policy is necessary because serious complications can arise if say, I was on an interview panel for an internal promotion and my wife or ex-wife was a candidate. As non-stories go, this one takes some beating.

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    BigGeoff

    Tuesday, May 20, 2014

  • mmmmm! Wonder how many masonic links there are within the council and all that implies.

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    MotorBotor

    Tuesday, May 20, 2014

  • This is such a non-story. As the spokesman said, you only need to disclose relationships when there could be a conflict of interests. Pretty sure this isn't a new policy. The star and Mr Geater would be the first to criticise the council if they discovered such a relationship. Genuinely can't believe this is front page news.

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    Magicman

    Tuesday, May 20, 2014

  • We all know of some strange going-ons in Ipswich over the years, an over authoritative local authority, that hates change and refuses to invest in the town - including the new Jewel-in-the-Crown waterfront - then you get the little Waitrose - taking a large amount of space in a public building - and Futura Park developments... and Tesco almost had a new supermarket a stones throw away from the railway station that despite being unpopular was being approved up until the withdrawal. --------------------------------------- We all hear moans about business rates too high, so many pound shops, bookies and charity shops in the town and the like... which are all outside the council's control... their hands are tied. But when you dig a little deeper, the council are only ever interested in micro-projects which are great for say a small market town... but for the size of Ipswich, both current and future planned expansion... its a joke. Some big projects go ahead from time to time, I am not saying bribe bribe bribe... but its somewhat suspicious... one could argue the little Waitrose was an unlawful sweetener to attract John Lewis. Cast your memory back to when IBC ran initiatives in the town including the Snobs coffee pop-up shop and the short-lived test trading shop. They outpriced Snobs, and snubbed several catering firms bidding for the tender to give it to a social enterprise.... didn't want to rent out space to a private firm due to some EU rule. Rewind a couple of years... applying the same principles and logic, how on earth did Little Waitrose manage it? ------------------------------------------- Then today we hear that the council has no previous industry-standard policy of determining whether any of their staff are related, married, close friends, in a relationship or casually dating with one another, their contractors, suppliers and even councillors... Does anyone know if the council is under investigation for anything? --------- So all you developers out there... it doesn't take a bribe, only a couple of dates with someone at the planning department...

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    Ipswich Entrepreneur

    Tuesday, May 20, 2014

  • I have never worked for a company where they need or even want to know this information. A lot of people meet and have relationships at work and go on to be very happy together it is very common.Your private life is nothing to do with your employer unless it impacts your work. This is just a jobsworth council prying into your lives like they are some big business, they are not. They were formed to serve the people and to run the services they are not in charge of us, I would not tell these people any details about my private life that they could use against you.

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    royg

    Tuesday, May 20, 2014

  • Like George says, this is pretty standard througout business. It is a safeguarding mechanism to protect those that could be adversely affected in the light of a personal relationship. In fact, in some companies I have worked for all office romances were banned (again, reasonalby standard). If working in secure environments where vetting is necessary, the questions you are asked and the information you have to disclose is much more personal and detailed than this ( Quite frankly this is a non story.

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    Emmy Lou

    Tuesday, May 20, 2014

  • I'm pretty sure this is fairly standard across industry and Government to ensure no conflicts of interest occur that could lead to people being unfairly treated (lack of promotion etc) or through preferential treatment for certain vendors etc.

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    George

    Tuesday, May 20, 2014

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