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Last Updated: Monday, 8 May 2006, 13:57 GMT 14:57 UK
Is sex at work illegal?
The Magazine answers...

John Prescott
John Prescott admits to an affair
Police are investigating a complaint that John Prescott broke the law by having sex with his secretary in his Whitehall office. So, what are the rules about sex at work?

Things just keep getting worse for deputy prime minister John Prescott.

Police are now investigating a complaint that he broke the law by having sex with his secretary in his Whitehall office.

Tracey Temple, his former assistant private secretary and diary manager, alleged that she had had sex with Mr Prescott in his ministerial office while he was supposed to be working.

He has admitted the affair but said many of her recollections were untrue.


One in 10 workers in the UK claim they have had sex in the office, according to research by RPCushing Recruitment.

There is no law saying that people cannot have sex at work but it calls into question issues of appropriate behaviour.

In Mr Prescott's case, he is being accused of committing the offence of misconduct in a public office by having sex with his secretary in his Whitehall office.

If someone who holds public office abuses their position it is seen as a breach of the public's trust. As a civil servant Ms Temple could also be prosecuted for the same thing.

A regular feature in the BBC News Magazine - aiming to answer some of the questions behind the headlines

Earlier this year a police officer who had sex with a woman he'd been called to help was given 200 hours of community service and lost his job after admitting misconduct in a public office.

And last year two policemen were sent to prison for 15 months and forced to quit their jobs after being found guilty of the same charge. They admitted having sex with a woman while on duty.

The offence applies to all public servants including councillors and government ministers.

For those employed by private companies, employers cannot ban relationships that start at work but they do have a right to expect some standards of behaviour on company time and on the premises, says the TUC.

Human rights

Sex at work could well be viewed as gross misconduct and a reason to dismiss a person immediately.

A fifth of UK companies have a formal or informal policy on what is expected of employees and their managers should love blossom and a further 20% are considering setting one up, according to law firm Fox Williams.

Some are considering following their US counterparts in setting up a "love contract", which can either ban office romances or require an employee to reveal a romantic relationship to management.

But firms could be in breach of the Human Rights Act if they try to persuade staff to sign an agreement that restricted workplace relationships, according to the TUC.

Lots of people meet their future partners in the work place and this is wonderful, howerver, I do feel that sex in the office is very wrong and anyway, who would want to be caught doing that in the cupboard!!
Irene Fox, Birmingham

Prescott and Temple are both public servants. The police officers who lost their jobs were all public servants. Is it usual practice to divert oneself from ones job to indulge in oral sex on the public purse. If Prescott and Temple have been using time paid for by the public in offices paid for by the public to commit sexual acts then their conduct is no different than that of the police officers who lost their jobs. So what should their fate be?

If two people choose to have sex in a locked (I assume) office is that so bad. Far worse abuses of power with self-gain being the motivator are overlooked all the time. This ultimately harmed nobody apart from the two in question.
Neil Avery, St. Albans

I met my partner at work & we have now been together for ten years. If a ban was enforced on office relationships, how many people would miss out on finding their ideal partner? In such a lonely world, we should all grab at what life throws our way & not be stifled by oppressive unfeeling employers.
Tracy Noon, Leamington Spa

What's the world coming to! If a relationship between coworkers meant then sitting next to each other all day kissing and cuddling with work being affected then sure enough it should be looked at then, or if the indiviudals are known to be married etc; but you can't tell people who they can and can't fall for, especially as most people are stuck at work for what is a large part of the day!
Cj, Notts

What Mr Prescott did was totally inappropriate and should if proven to be true, never occured in a public office. However he is entitled like any other member of the public, to a private life. We should allow the investigation to be completed and let the outcome of that determine his future in public office.
B Wilks, Billingha,

It is reasonable to say that staff cannot have sex on their employers premises and time, but unreasonable to limit their conduct off site and out of hours as long as it is consensual in all other respects. The rules should also be applied universally, regardless of the individuals position in the company.
Chloe, Slough

We live in interesting times, the Police have more than their fare share to cope with and have spend their time doing this. They are using your money to find out if Prescott was using your money wrongly by having sex in his office...a true lesson in how to compound a problem. Will someone wake up, please!! George.
George, Toulouse

Sex at work? I wouldn't need to worry about the police, just my wife.
Neil Small, Scotland

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