Human Resources

OC employee policies

Important OC policies for Okanagan College employees.

Code of ethical practices

Relationships between Employees and Students Q&A. See Code of Ethical practices policy.

HR policies and procedures

HR  practices not in the employment policies or collective agreements.

Relationships between Employees and Students Q&A

This document is intended to provide further information with respect to relationships between employees and students. See the Code of Ethical Practices Policy regarding the College policy and procedures related to these interactions.

A Conflict of Interest is a situation where the personal interests of an employee compromise or have the appearance of compromising the employee’s judgment.

A conflict of interest can be potential, actual or perceived. Even though an employee might not think their judgment is compromised because of a student relationship, others might think that it is.

It is a conflict of interest under the College’s Code of Ethical Practices Policy for an employee to be in, or pursue a business, financial, personal relationship including, but not limited to, a romantic or sexual relationship (may be a single occurrence or ongoing) with a student.

This includes relationships between employees and students where the employee supervises, teaches, advises, evaluates or otherwise has an actual, potential, or perceived position of authority or influence over the student.

The potential for a conflict of interest may still exist even if the relationship starts after the instructional, evaluative, advising or supervisory role concludes.

A conflict of interest can also be present in other types of employee relationships.

A student may also be an employee, and would be in a conflict of interest if they were in a relationship with another student that they teach, supervise, advise, evaluate or are otherwise in an actual or perceived position of authority or influence over.

It is the duty of the employee to disclose an actual or potential conflict of interest, not the duty of the student.

The College requires an employee to promptly disclose actual or potential conflict of interest to their supervisor, even where the employee does not directly teach, supervise or advise the student.

Disclosure is protection for both the employee and the student.

A plan will be developed to ensure conflicts of interest are avoided or managed, which typically requires the employee to remove themselves from any supervisory, advisory, instructional, evaluative, decision-making or role of influence with respect to the student. If an employee does not disclose the conflict of interest or the potential conflict of interest, the employee may face disciplinary actions.

Personal, particularly romantic or sexual relationships between employees and students are strongly discouraged and should be avoided.

Employees must recognize the power and potential influence they have over students: for example, they may mark exams and assignments, supervise research projects, determine employment status, assign placements, provide guidance and often give references for future academic or employment endeavours.

Due to the inherent power imbalance, even when a relationship with a student appears balanced and /or consensual, it may not be truly voluntary. Given the potential concern over the impact it may have on their academic progress, students may feel unable to communicate that they do not want such a relationship, or that they want an existing relationship to end.

A romantic personal relationship with a student may constitute or give rise to a subsequent claim that the employee’s conduct and the relationship constituted sexual harassment.

Employees vary in their level of formality in student interactions. While being friendly with students is not inherently problematic (and in fact can convey to students that an employee is approachable), employees should be aware that students may perceive behaviour differently than intended. Interactions that are perceived as informal and personal may make students feel uncomfortable and may lead them to question the employee’s intent.

Employee behaviours that may be misinterpreted by students:

  • a social invitation to an individual student (e.g. for dinner, coffee or drinks);
  • commenting on a student’s dress or appearance;
  • an invitation to an individual student to the employee’s home;
  • requesting an individual student to do a task of personal nature;
  • offering a gift;
  • a proposal to share accommodation (e.g. for a conference or research trip);
  • personal questions or disclosures;
  • connecting privately on social media (e.g. Facebook); or
  • physical contact of any kind.

If a student displays any of the behaviours described above towards an employee, the employee may be concerned that the student is attempting to initiate a romantic or sexual relationship. When this occurs, the employee should advise the student firmly and directly that the behaviour is not acceptable. The employee should also disclose to their supervisor the student’s behaviour and employee’s response.

  • Establish and maintain professional boundaries in relationships with your students. Don’t attempt to be one of them.
  • Periodically reflect on your relationships with students to ensure that students’ academic wellbeing is supported in a professional and equitable manner.
  • If a student asks for help with a personal issue, be supportive, but avoid taking on a counselling role. Refer students to resources that may be of assistance to them.
  • Avoid initiating or permitting discussions with students about their social or sexual life, or offering unsolicited advice on personal matters (e.g. family, relationships, etc.).
  • Be aware that students come from a variety of backgrounds and cultures and may interpret actions differently than you do.
  • Do not physically touch a student.
  • Communicate your own boundaries for interactions with students. If a student crosses a boundary, let them know that their actions or behaviour are inappropriate in the context of your relationship with them.

Need support?

This document aims to provide general guidance solely with respect to consensual romantic or sexual relationships between employees and students.

Any student with a complaint of discrimination, harassment or sexual harassment involving an employee, which may or may not arise from a consensual romantic or sexual relationship, may obtain more information at:

An employee who experiences harassment or inappropriate behaviour from a student may seek support from their association or union, from the Human Resources department, from their supervisor, or from the resources listed above.

HR policies and procedures

Okanagan College's HR Procedures outline practices that are not dealt with in the employment policies or collective agreements.
If you cannot find a procedure related to your concern or if you need clarification, please contact your Human Resources Advisor: