Chances are, you’ve noticed the flood of Gen Zers and Millennials entering the workplace. And with this change in workplace demographics, employees are demanding greater flexibility at work. As a result, the boundary between employees’ work and personal lives is increasingly blurred.
Valentine’s Day presents a perfect opportunity to look at a by-product of this increased intermingling of home and work selves—the increase in office romances. Millennials, in particular, have a different take on romance at work: a whopping 84 percent of workers age 18-29 say they would date a co-worker, compared with just 29 percent of Boomers.
With this shift in perspective, how do you manage employees’ romantic entanglements at work and avoid being blamed if it all goes awry?
Some organizations opt to do nothing, say nothing, and ignore romantic entanglements between employees. But having no policy in place leaves you wide open if allegations of discrimination, sexual harassment, or favoritism arise. Other employers opt to ban any kind of office romance entirely. But enforcing an anti-fraternization policy can be tricky and time-consuming, and reeks of authoritarian leadership.
The ideal solution lies somewhere between those two extremes. A good place to start is with a consensual relationship agreement, or “Love Contract”, that discloses the relationship and is signed by both parties.
Not sure what to include in a “Love Contract”? Here’s a template to use as a guide:
1. Voluntary and Consensual: The social/ romantic relationship is consensual and welcomed by both employees, and no one has been coerced.
2. Anti-Discrimination & Anti-Sexual Harassment: The relationship doesn’t violate any anti-discrimination policies or anti-harassment policies, and the employees have read, understand, and continue to comply with any existing policies of the organization.
3. Conflict of Interest: The employees involved will not seek or accept a supervisory relationship with the other, will avoid favoritism, and will not participate in decision making processes affecting the other party’s employment.
4. Inappropriate Conduct: Outlines what the employer considers appropriate/inappropriate conduct at work, and may address:
-Public displays of affection.
-Other behaviour that creates a hostile work environment.
-Expectations of professionalism.
-The relationship will not negatively affect work.
-The relationship will not adversely affect others.
5. If It Doesn’t Work Out…
-Employees will refrain from retaliation in the event that relationship ends.
-Employees will follow appropriate reporting processes if the relationship ends or the conduct of the other employee is no longer welcome.
-Any dispute will be resolved through arbitration.
6. Confidentiality: The agreement is confidential.
7. Legal Rights: Employees may consult with an attorney before signing.
8. Signatures of Both Employees
The bottom line? While getting employees to sign a consensual relationship agreement is important, it’s only part of the equation. Culture is key, and a signed document is only useful when coupled with consistent efforts to engage employees and create a culture of compliance, transparency, and respect in the workplace.
Your Engaged HR Assignment: Use this template as a guide, and create a document you can tailor to situations in your organization. Having your HR toolkit stocked and ready to go is half the challenge!
Of course, if you’d rather have someone tackle this on your behalf, we’re happy to help put together a “Love Contract” for your organization!