Wait, what? It’s against the rules to marry a co-worker?
They say love works in mysterious ways. But in Indonesia, love can leave you not working at all.
The Constitutional Court is now reviewing a regulation that, in an unintended consequence, could force companies to fire employees who decide to tie the knot. The regulation—which was meant to protect workers, not fire them—prohibits one party from firing their own family, whether they are related through blood or marriage. It’s supposed to prevent bosses from having to make an uncomfortable decision about their own family members. But in practice, the regulation keeps some companies from hiring relatives or married couples at all.
At least that’s how it works at the state-owned electricity company PLN. Yekti Kurniasih met her husband-to-be Erik Ferdiyan at a training event for new employees. She worked in Jambi, a province in Sumatra. He worked in Mamuju, South Sulawesi, more than 1,800 kilometers away. But despite the distance, the two fell in love and eventually married.
Then Yekti received a surprise wedding gift: a termination notice. The state-owned company said it fired her because she violated the rules and married another PLN employee. It didn’t matter, they said, that her husband worked in an entirely different province; the rules were the rules.
When she learned that seven other PLN employees were fired for the same reason in Jambi, Bengkulu, and Palembang, the local union filed a complaint with the nation’s highest court demanding a judicial review. Jhoni Boetja, one of the plaintiffs, dug a bit deeper and found at least 200 other people who were fired for marrying a co-worker. He told local media that plenty of others had put their wedding plans on hold until the court issued a decision.
“There are many of our friends in Yogyakarta, Bali, and even at the PLN headquarters in Jakarta who want to get married, but are waiting on the court’s decision,” Jhoni told Kompas.com. “If the challenge is successful, they will immediately get married.”
It’s common for companies in Asia to ban interoffice relationships—especially marriage. The worry is that allowing coworkers to date or marry breeds an unprofessional workplace environment and opens the door to allegations of nepotism.
But workplace romances are common practice, regardless of the regulations. Nicky Widadio, who is currently dating a coworker, said that private companies were less strict about interoffice relationships.
“I’m not worried,” she told VICE Indonesia. “At my work may spouses work together. Two weeks ago, two employees who both work in the same editorial division got married.”
So I guess if you truly want to live happily ever after, check your workplace rules first.