All you need is love.
At least, that's what the Beatles told us. And they were probably right - except, perhaps, when it comes to the workplace.
Increasingly, New Zealanders are spending more time at work. So it should perhaps come as little surprise that something like one-third of us will find a romantic partner through our work (that is, either in the form of a workmate, or perhaps a client).
But, as we well know, romantic affairs in the workplace bring a dangerous dark side. As a recent case illustrates, a personal relationship gone wrong can mean problems in a workplace.
The case is a recent decision of the English Employment Appeal Tribunal - and involves a man and woman identified only by the descriptors "A" and "B".
The man was a solicitor in a small firm. He hired the woman as his secretary - and consequently worked closely with her over a period of time.
The two fell in love, and started a relationship. It developed in its seriousness, to the point that the two decided to live together in a de facto relationship. They had lived together for a couple of years when the man suggested that the woman should "better herself" by undertaking tertiary study. She continued to work as the man's secretary, but also studied part-time at a local tertiary institute.
It was through this study that the woman met another man - a fellow student. Meeting this man made the woman realise that her affection for the solicitor had waned - and she started a relationship with her new beau.
The woman confronted the solicitor in the workplace with news of the affair. Understandably, the solicitor was upset. Perhaps enraged or depressed (or a little of both) he told the woman that he could no longer work with her, and that she was fired.
The woman cried foul and brought a claim against the solicitor.
Under English law, the woman faced some difficulties in bringing an employment claim - so, instead, she made a claim under discrimination legislation, alleging that the man had discriminated against her on the basis of her gender.
The woman's claim was unsuccessful. The Tribunal found that, whilst the woman was perhaps justified in her dismay over her dismissal, it was not motivated by gender discrimination. Simply, it was not because she was a woman that she lost her job - but rather because she had incensed her boss by having an affair. The Tribunal rationalised that the outcome would have been the same if she had been a man in a homosexual relationship with her boss.
So the woman's claim failed. But what would have happened in New Zealand?
First, the woman would have been able to bring an employment relationship problem in this country. She could have argued that her dismissal was unjustified - because she had not committed any misconduct in the workplace, nor was her performance inadequate.
Secondly, the human rights legislation could have possibly afforded her some relief. Our legislation allows a person to bring a claim on the basis of marital status - and it would have been open to the woman to argue that she had been discriminated against on the basis of her relationship with another man.
But that might not be the end of the matter. The employer might also have an answer to these claims.
Our employment law recognises that a situation may arise where, because of personal circumstances, it is impractical for two individuals to work alongside each other. In this case, it would be open to the employer to show that, because of personal circumstances, a situation of incompatibility had arisen between the solicitor and his secretary. In the absence of any other reasonable solution to the problem (such as redeploying the secretary to work for a different solicitor) the employer might be justified in terminating her employment.
But even though New Zealand law might allow a different solution - and perhaps one more likely to accord with commonsense - the moral of the story is different: romantic relationships in the workplace can, by their nature, give rise to difficult employment problems.
Whilst there is no reason to discourage such relationships (and an employer would probably be criticised if it attempted to do so), employers should think carefully about how to handle situations such as this - where workplace love goes wrong.