Almost 60% of people have had a relationship with someone they work with, be it a fling or something more serious, according to a recent survey.

The figure in the survey, carried out by policy management company NETconsent, is higher than previously thought. Two years ago the TUC estimated one in four had been involved in a dalliance at work.

But it’s hardly surprising, given that we spend nearly a third of our lives at work, that office romances are on the increase.

Late nights engrossed in a company project, evenings out at industry events and weekends away at overseas conferences mean we spend more time with our colleagues than we do our families. Over time, Mary in product and Paul in sales start to see each other in a whole new light and romance blossoms.

It’s easy to fall in love at work. It’s a ‘safe’ environment, you both already have something in common and, unlike meeting in a bar or over the Internet, you have the chance to get to know each other gradually.

But while loved-up couples may enjoy the thrill, it can be a nightmare for employers and colleagues.

Harassment cases in the US have led employers to fear the repercussions that unwanted attention from one member of staff to another can bring, while relationships between a boss and a member of staff may lead to accusations of favouritism.

Many US companies now have clauses in their contracts insisting bosses are made aware of any romantic liaisons at work. Some have even banned office relationships, although many admit such a ban is impossible to police.

Gillian Downer, manager at HR expert Croner, said UK companies should follow the US.

She said: “Companies should consider whether they need to have a policy on office relationships, to maintain professional relationships between staff and managers, or to reduce the risk of fraud, stock losses and other types of theft.”

NETconsent operations director Dominic Saunders said: “Organisations have to accept staff are going to have relationships, but cannot afford to ignore them if they are detrimental to the company.”

However, most travel companies don’t feel the need for formal policies.Youtravel.com sales and marketing director Paul Riches said: “We have no official policy. As long as it doesn’t affect either party’s ability to do their job, we’re fine with it.”

A Thomas Cook spokeswoman said: “Staff are trusted to use their judgement.”

C&M Recruitment managing director Angus Chisholm said: “You’re asking for trouble if you try to restrict human interaction.”