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Thursday, 30 December, 1999, 12:33 GMT
Beware of the 'love contract'

office romance graphic Are the passion killers taking a contract out on love?

Office romances are being put on a legal footing by a London firm which has instructed its lawyers to draw up what is thought to be the first British "love contact".

The move comes at a time of year when festive celebrations at drink-fuelled office parties will have lit fires under the romantic urges of countless co-workers.

The unnamed company, which makes medical products, is following the lead of thousands of US firms where contracts can even bar office flirting, The Independent newspaper reports.

The contracts usually require people working for the same firm to tell their managers if they are involved with anyone from work - and to keep them up to speed as the situation changes.

Love contracts can be added to a company's arsenal to stave off crippling sexual harassment claims
Lawyer Jessica Learmond-Criqui
The idea is to protect employers from the possibility of being sued for allowing sexual harassment at work should relationships between colleagues of different ranks end in acrimony and spite.

Jessica Learmond-Criqui, a partner with the company's lawyers Fladgate Fielder, told The Independent: "Love contracts can be added to a company's arsenal to stave off crippling sexual harassment claims."

ally mcbeal TV show Ally McBeal featured a love contract case
In October it emerged that Evershed's - one of the UK's biggest legal firms - was also in the process of drawing up a similar document.

The phenomenon has even extended to television, where a recent episode of the legal comedy series Ally McBeal, featured the fictional case of a couple fired for keeping their office romance secret.

Employment relations advisers have warned that companies cannot get an employee to sign away his or her rights.

If a former lover fires someone or fails to promote them out of personal bitterness a "love contract" will not protect the firm from proceedings at an industrial tribunal, say experts.

There are fears that love contracts may be seen as a company's attempt to negate their responsibilities for employees' welfare.

It also raises the more basic question of whether such contracts will rile employees by killing off what many see as a harmless facet of office life.

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See also:
08 Dec 98 |  Office Life
Party at your peril
29 Jul 99 |  Talking Point
Crazy little thing called love?
13 Oct 99 |  UK
No sex please, we're skittish

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