Contract is drawn up for lovers in office

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The Independent Online

It is a cliché as old as, well, clichés. The office party combination of drink and lust will have lit fires under countless work romances this month. Later may come tears, recriminations and possibly even a claim of sexual harassment.

It is a cliché as old as, well, clichés. The office party combination of drink and lust will have lit fires under countless work romances this month. Later may come tears, recriminations and possibly even a claim of sexual harassment.

Now a London-based medical products company, which wishes to remain unnamed, has found a way to put office romances on a legal footing. It has instructed its lawyers to draw up the first British "love contract" setting out the terms and conditions for those involved in a relationship at work.

The company's employment lawyer, Jessica Learmond-Criqui, a partner with Fladgate Fielder, said it would help to protect directors from legal action if a relationship broke down: "Love contracts can be added to a company's arsenal to stave off crippling sexual harassment claims," she said.

While not exactly romantic, the "love contract" enjoys wide use in the United States, where bosses encourage secretaries to sign contracts which state they have voluntarily entered a sexual relationship. If the tryst ends in tears, the contract is designed to deter staff from claiming for sex discrimination, harassment or unfair dismissal.