Boss unfairly sacked PA after wife discovered their affair


Office affair (picture posed by models)

An employment tribunal has ruled that a boss unfairly dismissed his assistant, after their three-year-affair was discovered by his wife.

It shows how dangerous a workplace affair can be, and this is just one of the many risks.


The London Central Employment Tribunal heard that the chief executive of a business in London (who cannot be named for legal reasons) had been having an affair with his PA for three years, during which time he had bought her a car, a flat and luxury holidays.

However, after anonymous-tip off, his wife discovered the affair, and he asked her to leave. According to the Daily Mail, he then offered her redundancy - which she refused, before finally sacking her during a phone call, when he told her: "Don't you f****** come back."

The tribunal found that she had been unfairly dismissed. According to the Telegraph it ruled : "The reason [the chief executive] dismissed the claimant was because their relationship had dramatically and irretrievably broken down. He was in a state of emotional crisis." "There was no procedure and the dismissal was necessarily unfair."

The Telegraph added that his behaviour around the office had also outraged staff. On one day he announced: "It's t*ts out day". He also told his PA: "You've got your 'f*** me' boots on." And at a Christmas party he gave all his employees a sex toy. It reported that the tribunal said: "The tribunal wish to state unequivocally that this sort of behaviour has no place in the office of the 21st century." However, it dismissed her separate sex discrimination claim.

The risks

It highlights just how difficult office affairs can make life, and the break-up isn't the only only point at which an affair can damage your career.

Jemma Pugh, a Solicitor with Lester Aldridge LLP says: "Whatever your view on the morality of such conduct, actually having an affair with a colleague is unlikely to warrant any disciplinary action unless there are specific restrictions within the organisation which ban relationships between staff. "

If there is a specific rule about relationships, however, it is a disciplinary offence to break it, so if your affair is discovered your career will suffer.

Another risk is that the affair will mean that confidentiality is breached: Pugh says this can happen where "two people, even within the same Company, are sharing information which is confidential to a particular team, deal or client." Often there are confidentiality clauses within employment contracts.

By revealing confidential information, an employee is likely to be in breach of contract. This could potentially result in disciplinary action being taken against them. Depending on the seriousness of the breach, this could even amount to gross misconduct.

Then there's the risk that the business could be brought into disrepute. Pugh says: "Arguably the most important aspect of running a successful business is a good reputation. If this is put into jeopardy by employees' conduct, then again, this could be grounds for disciplinary action."

Finally, there's the risk it will impact on your behaviour at work. Pugh says: "Inappropriately conducting an affair at work, for example unsuitable behaviour in the workplace or during working time, could well result in disciplinary action being taken against the individuals involved."

All in all, it seems a highly risky business. However, with the Vault recently finding that 57% of people know someone who had an extra-marital affair at the office, it seems like these are risks that some people are prepared to take.

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