Schofield scandal | ITV staff could be sacked if they fail to disclose relationships with colleagues

ITV staff could be sacked if they fail to disclose relationships with colleagues

ITV has introduced strict new rules requiring all employees to declare any relationships and close friendships with coworkers, in the wake of Phillip Schofield’s resignation earlier this year over a workplace affair.

Schofield stepped down from hosting the daytime show This Morning in May 2023 after two decades as a presenter, amid growing pressure following his admission of an affair with a much younger colleague while he was still married.

Schofield admitted in a statement at the time: "I did have a consensual on-off relationship with a younger male colleague at This Morning.

"Contrary to speculation, whilst I met the man when he was a teenager and was asked to help him to get into television, it was only after he started to work on the show that it became more than just a friendship.

"That relationship was unwise, but not illegal. It is now over."

Schofield resigned following his admission, and an ITV spokesperson subsequently said the broadcaster was “deeply disappointed by the admissions of deceit made… by Phillip Schofield.

"The relationships we have with those we work with are based on trust. Phillip made assurances to us which he now acknowledges were untrue and we feel badly let down.”

Now months later, ITV bosses’ desire to avoid that sense of deceit again has manifested as a new “Personal Relationships at Work Policy” which, according to the Sunday Times, has been distributed to all staff this month.

All of the media outlet’s employees will be required to declare connections with colleagues which go beyond the workplace. 

In addition to “anyone involved in a sexual, romantic or close relationship or friendship (whether short or longer term)”, staff must make it known if they are living in the same household as a colleague, even if their relationship is not a romantic one.

The policy even covers freelance staff, agency workers and anyone on work experience.

Anyone who fails to disclose such relationships risks disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal.

The Sunday Times reported that the document states: “If a personal relationship exists between you and another colleague (whether it started prior to or during the course of your employment or engagement with ITV), both parties must disclose this to the company at the earliest opportunity.”

Office relationship policies ‘a sensible approach’, but solid policies must be in place, warns HR expert

Greg Guilford, Director of HR Consulting at WorkNest spoke to HR Grapevine about ITV’s new approach, and what other employers should do if they want to introduce a relationship policy.

“Employers can ask employees to disclose workplace relationships, especially if the relationship is between a manager and a direct report,” said Guilford. 

“It’s important that you have all the appropriate policies in place, including a code of conduct, grievance procedure and rules on harassment. It is a sensible approach for employers to impose rules around personal relationships at work, with the aim of ensuring that individual members of staff are not open to allegations of impropriety, bias, abuse of authority or conflict of interest.” 

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Guilford added that a policy could also cover break-ups and what’s expected still if a co-working relationship breaks down. 

He explained: “This could include that it is a duty of those involved in the relationship to leave domestic issues at home and stress the need for professionalism at all times, even in the event of a failing relationship.

“Businesses must play it safe because there is a legal risk to them. Workplace romances could potentially provide grounds for an Employment Tribunal claim, including claims for sexual harassment, sex discrimination and victimisation.”



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