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Supporting employees going through divorce

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In the UK 42% of marriages end in divorce, and HR has a key role to play in helping staff cope

Organisations must consider how they can better support employees going through divorce, according to research from HR consultancy Boudica & Eir.

The survey of 121 people – HR Implications of Managing Divorce Wellbeing in the Workplace – found that a quarter (24%) of divorced respondents felt that they were pushed or managed out of the business because of it. Seven in 10 (71%) of those who were working at the time of their separation or divorce left their jobs within the first year of their relationship breakdown.

When it came to the type of support employees would have liked to see, 26% said they would have benefited from access to generic therapeutic or dedicated divorce planning and wellbeing support, in the form of coaching, self-help programmes and counselling. However, only 9% said they were well-supported in this area.

Helene Bradley-Ritt, managing director of Boudica & Eir, told HR magazine that employers should support staff through the “life-changing” experience of divorce. “Having been through it myself, and working with many others who have too, we’ve seen a lack of dedicated divorce support in the workplace,” she said.

“Employers ask 'why should we care about this?' There are four key reasons: the cost of replacing a staff member who leaves because of a divorce, controlling operational costs, managing the engagement and performance of staff, and looking after the organisation’s reputation.”

Divorce & Separation: Evaluating the Risk to Workplace Wellbeing, a whitepaper from Dialogue First, used census and ONS data to find that 42% of marriages end in divorce, and more than 90% of divorces happen to people of working age. This suggests divorce is an issue likely to affect many employers.

Liz Laughton, head of HR and people development for the Royal College of Nursing (a Dialogue First workplace partner), said that divorce is an issue HR must be able to contend with. “When people come into work they can’t just leave their home lives behind,” she told HR magazine. “Good things and bad things are going to affect their mood and concentration, and have a significant effect on their wellbeing.”

She suggested that firms look into ways to support employees both before and during a divorce. “An employee assistance programme can help to provide advice, both from a legal and wellbeing perspective,” she said. “If it offers counselling it might even be able to help couples avoid a divorce, if that’s the right option for them.

“Additionally, if you have a culture where employees can speak about their home lives, and know they are being listened to and heard, that can be very helpful.”