They say that divorce, alongside bereavement and moving, are the three most stressful events a person can go through. Given that we don’t leave our personal life at the office door, divorce is most likely to impact the work of any employee. Indeed, findings of a 2023 survey of more than 200 employees who had gone through divorce or separation, commissioned by the Positive Parenting Alliance, showed:
- 90% said their separation or divorce had negatively affected their ability to work
- 75% admitted they were less efficient at work
- 50% feared they may lose their jobs because of the effect of their divorce
- 95% felt their mental health was negatively impacted
- 39% had to take either sick leave or unpaid leave
- 12% stopped working altogether
- Only 9% reported their employers had policies or support in place to help them through their divorce
These findings clearly show that employers should seriously consider including divorce and separation in their HR policies. Given that most of those who divorce are of working age, it makes sense for employers to understand the needs of employees going through divorce and the potential risk areas. What are the measures you can take as an employer?
- Include separation and divorce as a ‘life event’ in your HR policy. By doing this, your employees will understand the support you are offering and you ensure that all employees are treated equally when facing the same situation instead of leaving the decision about how to support them to the discretion of individual line managers.
- Offer flexible working. Even though employees don’t have the legal right to take time off work to deal with a family break up, it is in the best interest of both parties to be flexible where possible. Allowing employees to work from home, change their working hours to fit around childcare or solicitors’ appointments, or even take a sabbatical, can be mutually beneficial. It is important not to make assumptions and let the employee take the lead. Whereas some people may choose to take a leave of absence while they deal with their divorce, others may find a haven in the office and see work as a welcomed distraction.
- Provide access to mental health and legal support. By doing this, you will show your employees you care, and it will help retention rates, reduce absenteeism, and sustain productivity levels. Mental health support is particularly relevant as there is strong evidence to show that divorce has negative effects on mental health, although they fortunately tend to be temporary.
- Offer financial support. The average cost of a divorce in the UK in 2021 was £14,651. In addition, divorce is associated with a substantial decline in economic resources for mothers and children. Consider what you can do to help ease this financial pressure. Could you provide an interest-free loan or suspend repayments on any existing loan? Could you bring forward a pay raise or bonus? Could you improve your pension contributions to help rebuild a pension that will be divided in the divorce proceedings?
- Offer practical support. You could set up an internal network for people in the same situation and bring in relevant experts, such a child psychologist, a counsellor, or a family lawyer.
- Provide information promptly. Your employee may need you to provide financial information about themselves. If this is the case, be as prompt and as helpful as you can, to avoid unnecessary delays in the divorce proceedings.
- Consider reasonable adjustments. If the employee is experiencing mental health difficulties, consider whether they may have a disability. It may be a good idea that the employee seeks advice from their health practitioner.
- Above all, be compassionate, show patience and be proactive in offering your support. This situation will not last forever, your employee will get to a ‘new normal’ and is likely to never forget that the company supported them through this difficult period.
These are just some measures you can consider to support your employees. We understand that there is a limit to how far employers’ responsibilities go, and that the support employers can give depends on the size of the workforce and the available resources. However, consider that even talking small steps will show your employees you care and may help you to retain those valued individuals within your organization. Be proactive and don’t sit around hoping for the best. Offering support is a wise business decision even if you are not legally obliged to help. Firms such as Asda, Tesco, Unilever, PwC and Metro Bank are reviewing their workplace policies. What are you waiting for? Get in touch to see how we can support your company! Contact us at: email@example.com