Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Vivamus convallis sem tellus, vitae egestas felis vestibule ut.

Error message details.

Reuse Permissions

Request permission to republish or redistribute SHRM content and materials.

What are the pros and cons of a "consensual relationship" contract with employees who are dating?

Workplace romances may lead to accusations of poor judgment, ethical breaches, favoritism and harassment. Employers are also aware of the risks of decreased productivity and employee morale. These concerns have led some employers to institute consensual relationship agreements (sometimes called “love contracts”).

In a consensual relationship contract, the dating parties sign an agreement that confirms the relationship is consensual, explains what the parties should do if the relationship ever ceases to be consensual, and affirms that the employees are aware of the organization’s policies on sexual harassment and workplace ethics and also that they understand the consequences of failure to follow those policies. Agreements may be between peers or between employees of different levels in the organization.

Experts say the reasons for asking employees to sign a consensual relationship contract include:

  • Decreasing sexual harassment litigation risk. If a workplace romance fails, one employee may claim to have been pressured into the relationship, particularly if one of the employees is in a higher role in the organization than the other. A consensual relationship contract, signed after the relationship has commenced, can effectively refute such claims by providing compelling evidence that both employees entered the relationship voluntarily.

  • Reducing perceptions of favoritism. Favoritism—or the appearance of it—is not just poor employee relations. In some cases, it is a cause for harassment lawsuits. Openness about the existence of the relationship allows management to be alert for behavior that may hint of favoritism.

  • Creating a forum to discuss professional workplace behavior. A consensual relationship contract provides a forum for HR professionals to talk to dating employees about appropriate workplace behavior.

Before adopting consensual relationship contracts, employers should consider how their use will affect the organization and its employees: Will the use and enforcement cause as many problems as they solve?

Reasons why some HR professionals spurn consensual relationship contracts include the following:

  • Employees may regard them as an invasion of privacy. Well-performing, professional employees may be offended by the mandatory reporting of a personal relationship.

  • HR does not want to be in charge of relationships. Consensual relationship contracts may put HR professionals into the position of policing who dates whom, having to discuss the appropriateness of relationships and dealing with the “idea,” rather than with the reality, of awkward situations.

  • Consensual relationship contracts do not always protect against the most problematic romantic relationships. Romantic relationships most likely to cause problems for organizations are those in which participants will be the least likely to come forward to sign consensual relationship contract, regardless of policy. For example, married participants or participants in sensitive jobs may choose to disregard policy because of the negative repercussions of revealing the relationship.

Consensual relationship contracts are not for every organization, and the pros and cons must be carefully considered. Regardless, all employers would be wise to create policies that clearly outline acceptable behavior within the organization as well as consequences for employees who cross those boundaries.


​An organization run by AI is not a futuristic concept. Such technology is already a part of many workplaces and will continue to shape the labor market and HR. Here's how employers and employees can successfully manage generative AI and other AI-powered systems.