Employers back action on separation and divorce

Divorce and separation have an impact at work, which is why several big employers are supporting a pledge to recognise them as major life events that require support.

man and woman getting a divorce

Couple with divorce contract and ring on desk. Divorce

Several big employers, including Asda, Tesco, Vodafone and Metro Bank have committed to a new initiative to support staff who are going through separation and divorce as a survey shows 90% said their work performance suffered as a result of the emotional upheaval and over 11% left their job.

The employers, who also include NatWest, PwC and Unilever have teamed up with the Positive Parenting Alliance (PPA) to recognise separation as a ‘life event’ and signpost employees to available support.

The survey of over 200 employees found 95% of employees said their mental health had suffered as a result of divorce or separation, more than 74% felt they were less efficient at work and over 39% said they had to take time off work as a result of their separation. Over half – 52% – said that as a result of their separation they felt they might lose their job or thought about voluntarily leaving while just 9% said their employer had specific policies or support for employees going through separation or divorce.

James Hayhurst, founder of the Positive Parenting Alliance, said: “We want to change the culture of separation in the UK, and employers can play a critical first step in offering support, signposting and role-modelling how separation can be handled in a more positive way for the benefit of all parties involved.”

“Currently few employers recognise or accommodate for employees going through a divorce or separation, even though it affects large numbers annually, and is a huge strain on an individual’s mental health. Often, children are involved and impacted negatively by a family breakdown, and yet divorce is not formally incorporated into HR policies.”

The Alliance is launching a campaign in Parliament this week, backed by Siobhan Baillie MP and Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Court Division, which is calling on other businesses and HR leaders to better support employees going through separation by implementing a number of HR initiatives, including:

  • Recognising separation as a ‘life event’ in HR policy so that those experiencing separation feel recognised and realise that they can access support.
  • Ensuring parents going through a separation have access to flexible working to enable them to manage school and childcare pick-ups and drop-offs whilst they reconfigure their family set-ups.
  • Giving employees access to, and pointing them towards, emotional counselling during this period.
  • Signposting and access to separation support services so that parents can have the guidance and support that they need to separate in the most compassionate and child-focused way.

Karen Holden from A City Law Firm has long advocated the benefits for both employer and employee of greater support and understanding about the impact of divorce and separation. She says: “An employer’s role during a divorce can make a significant contribution towards a Good Divorce. Supportive workplaces are contented, productive workplaces with good staff retention. Although formal policies on divorce are not legal requirements, an agreed workplace approach of how best to support those going through divorce, can only be of benefit to both employer and employee.”

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