Heart of the matter

Relationship problems can lead to poor performance and trauma for the
affected worker. New legislation, backed by research, is poised to deal with
the disruption, by Linda Goldman and Joan Lewis

Statistics released by the National Institute (Trauma) Personal Indignity
Campaign (Nitpic) show that the incidence of absence from work on St
Valentine’s Day is increasing at the rate of 36.1 per cent per annum.

Figures show that there is a combination of lateness and absence at emotive
anniversaries and pagan festivalsgenerally.

Latecomers arrive at work offering a variety of excuses to cover the fact
that they have waited at home for the post to arrive. This effect may equate
directly to absence where an employee has a long distance to travel to work.

Those who do not receive a love token of any description may not attend work
for anything up to three days. Those who do not receive post of the desired
nature may perform poorly at work even when they are able to attend.

OH teams have been taking part in the government initiative to combat the
condition known as "Valentabsence" by completing anonymous
questionnaires to provide a factual matrix for dealing with the condition and a
sound base for the new Prevention of Work Distress (Exacerbation) Regulations
2001 (Powder) which, at the time of writing, are about to come into force.

Practical effects

If the expected results are forthcoming from the Valentabsence trial, then
it is likely that consultation will take place on extending the scheme to
include wedding anniversaries, birthdays, etc. The Government has indicated
that a Commissioner for Love Over Trauma (Clot) would be appointed to oversee
the new system of rights.

The OH department is concerned with the health-related absences that are the
reason for the creation of Powder. In dealing with these issues,
confidentiality remains paramount, since mere absence without leave is a
disciplinary issue, whereas absence for this particular condition may
characterise a single, short-term episode of illness (ichthyotic transient
cardiac haemorrhage – "itch").

The more serious, long-term effects involving three days’ absence or more
must be carefully investigated since, if the party who failed to send a
Valentine is a work colleague, the incident may have to be reported under the
Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995
(Riddor), being of a work-related origin.

In rare instances, the condition can become chronic, giving rise to
circumstances in which dismissal on the grounds of ill health may be considered
by the HR department. Hitherto, OH personnel have been able to assist in the
health issues, subject to the overriding ethical demands.

Effect of the new regulations

The broken heart syndrome is the commonest cause of exacerbation of
stress-related illness, particularly in mid-February.

Powder comes into force at midnight on 31 March 2001 and clarifies the
issues which justify absence from work on St Valentine’s Day. It should be
noted that they have retrospective effect only for those who have suffered

Figures contained in the NITPIC 2000 Report available at www.heartbreak.uk

© Humour Resources.

Linda Goldman is a barrister at the civil chambers of Bernard Pearl,
Lincoln’s Inn. She is head of training and education for ACT Associates &
Virtual Personnel.  Joan Lewis is the
senior consultant and director of ACT Associates and Virtual Personnel

The main measures of Powder regulations

– All working persons must only receive Valentine cards at their place of
work (the transition period allows for suitable arrangements to be made in
workplaces where private correspondence is not otherwise permitted)

– Crown immunity to be removed so armed forces may receive Valentines in the

– Companies employing 20 or more workers to have qualified OH assistance for
those who have not received a Valentine 

– Resources to include provision of counselling and surrogate cards for
which the Government will provide funds. Flowers or gifts are optional and will
be at the expense of the individual company

– Waiting at home to receive a Valentine card will be a potentially fair
reason for dismissal

– Fines for managers or other senior office holders who have either failed
to send a Valentine or sent one by e-mail (subject to company policy on the
receipt of private e-mail)

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