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& Culture

Fooling around with your boss is no longer possible

With a new integrity code for personal relationships at work, VU Amsterdam tries to prevent conflicts of interest. According to the code, employees have to report their romantic relationships, family ties and friendships.

Generally speaking it concerns relationships where (the appearance of) conflicts of interest is involved. Whether that is the case is up to the employee to decide. The code also describes types of personal relationships that should always be reported. For instance when two employees are part of the same hierarchical structure. Or a relationship in which one person has to assess the other person or their work. In that sense, fooling around with your boss is off the table at VU Amsterdam.

Conflicts of interests

According to the code, conflicts of interest can develop in various ways, such as in financial situations, in someone’s career progression, with ancillary activities or with access to sensitive information. When a personal relationship could lead to a conflict of interest, employees have to report it to their manager. When the manager is involved in the relationship, it should be reported higher up.

The manager will discuss with the employee whether any actions are necessary, such as reallocating tasks, transferring to another department or switching up managers. When it comes to relationships that always have to be reported, measures will always be taken to ‘remove the integrity risk’.

Dating students

Employees with a personal relationship with a student are always supposed to report it. The integrity code does not mention that those relationships are forbidden. Whether the employee could be fired for such a relationship is not mentioned. The code does imply that management can take far-reaching measures when there are conflicts of interest. ‘In extreme cases’, those measures can include dismissal.

Staff council approves

At first, not everyone from the Staff Council (OR) seemed satisfied with the code. “Ultimately, everyone knows for themselves whether something is wrong”, said one council member last year during a meeting with the Executive Board. “I bike home with a colleague every day, will that soon have to be reported to my manager?” wondered another member at that meeting. By now, those concerns seem to have been straightened out, as VU Amsterdam writes that the University Student Council and Staff Council have approved the new code.


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