Office flings can be bad for business

Salacious workplace affairs are giving WA bosses grief and wreaking havoc on business’ bottom line.

Tawdry texts, X-rated emails and watercooler gossip are only the beginning – employers have told WA’s peak business advocate that in-office escapades, sex with clients, revenge acts and marriage breakdowns are rampant in WA businesses.

They are fuelling toxic workplace cultures that threaten the mental health and safety of all employees, as well as the business’ productivity, profitability and reputation.

The problem is so prolific that the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Western Australia has released a how-to guide for employers dealing with the damage caused by employee trysts.

CCI Director of Advocacy Cath Langmead says while workplace flings may seem amusing or exciting, they could be devastating for businesses – particularly small businesses, who are often unequipped to deal with what can be very serious consequences.

“Sex at work is bad for business – CCI receives calls every week from employers who do not know how to deal with the complicated, highly-emotional fallout from workplace affairs gone bad,” Langmead says.

“Workplace flings can very quickly descend into cases of sexual harassment, unfair dismissal, bullying, or even civil claims in court, all of which could prove disastrous for a business – particularly small businesses, who typically don’t have high-level human resources teams or processes in place that can protect employers from going broke defending a claim.

“Even larger businesses – with expert human resources capacity – often cannot withstand the reputational damage that a high-profile, sex-related civil or industrial relations claim can bring.

“Dragging the organisation’s name through the mud can have an immeasurable impact on productivity, profitability and ultimately a business’ long-term future.

“Sadly, one business owner has even told CCI that a sexual harassment case cost him his business, with a legal claim proving so expensive he was forced to shut the doors.”

CCI’s special edition of its monthly magazine, Business Pulse, aims to bring the issue out of the shadows so small businesses can seek help and support.

“CCI’s mission is to help business work, in every sense of the word – a critical part of this is empowering employers with the knowledge they need to make sure they can work through the problems they face in their workplace every day,” Langmead says.

“More than 90 per cent of CCI’s 9000 Members are small to medium sized businesses, who tell us that navigating the human resources, industrial relations and legal minefields related to workplace affairs is time consuming, costly and above all stressful – which is ultimately bad for business, bad for bosses and bad for workers.

“This special edition of Business Pulse is designed to help employers fully understand the ramifications of inappropriate conduct among employees and act as a beginner’s guide in dealing with the complexities of personal relationships in the workplace – CCI looks forward to continuing to providing the real-life support that WA employer’s need to help their business work.”

► To view CCI’s special investigation into sex in the workplace in full, visit here.

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