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When Cupid Strikes the Office: Implementing ‘Love Contracts’

It’s Valentine’s Day and love is in the air, meaning HR managers everywhere have to ensure their employees don’t get bit by the love bug.

According to a recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), “One out of four employees reported they have been or recently are involved in a workplace romance, and 43 percent of HR professionals reported current incidences of workplace romance at their organizations.” With those statistics, office couples don’t seem to be “breaking up” anytime soon, so to avoid risk, HR managers may want to prepare now for more issues related to managing Cupid’s impact.

Last year, the SHRM study found, 42 percent of companies reported having a policy in place, representing a 22-percent increase from 2005. However, that leaves more than half without any such agreement established. With increasing concerns such as perceived favoritism, sexual harassment claims and potential retaliation lurking overhead, the time to create a policy is now.

Rather than forbidding romance outright, some workplaces are taking a different approach by implementing “love contracts.” A relatively new concept, these preventative documents include written confirmation from both romantic partners indicating the relationship is voluntary and that the company’s sexual harassment policies are understood. For HR departments, the advantage of a love contract is having an additional document to point to; it’s extra security.

However, organizations should view them as a secondary precaution only. The main focus should remain training on — and continual reiteration of — the existing policy regarding sexual harassment.

In addition, understanding the grapevine and how it works is extremely advantageous. This means talking with employees and listening to what is being said; make them feel comfortable enough to share information with you. Managers should consider having an open-door policy to encourage employees to come to them with any immediate concerns. This reduces office gossip, thereby giving you more control over your business.

Albert Einstein proved that gravitation isn’t responsible for people falling in love, but your organization may be the commonality for many lovebirds. All things considered, by implementing a love contract at your organization, what do you have to lose?