Supporting employees going through divorce

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I have been going through this very scenario myself for the last 18 months. I'm a HR Manager & at times the stress of my divorce has hugely effected my focus & concentration & my work suffered. When ...


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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.”

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I have been going through this very scenario myself for the last 18 months. I'm a HR Manager & at times the stress of my divorce has hugely effected my focus & concentration & my work suffered. When I joined my previous company over 15 years ago, they had the historical culture of "leaving your personal life at the front door" but that is almost impossible in todays day where our professional & personal lives cross over in so many ways. Thankfully my most recent boss in that last position was amazing at supporting me through my worst days, whether she just listened or encouraged me to take some time away from the office where possible; it was priceless. She understood that by giving me a little room to breathe, I would be able to refocus & come back with my eye on the ball. We were also lucky enough to have an Employee Assistance Programme - this is by far the most important benefit a company can offer their employees. I used their counselling facility both face to face & over the telephone & their legal team also guided me through the early days of my divorce. I'm nearing the end of the process now & thankfully it rarely effects my work but I cannot stress enough how vital it is for employers to support their employees through what can only be described as a life changing experience; they will feel valued & their appreciation will be enormous!


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Marie, thank you so much for sharing your experience. Going through what is, frankly, a brutal journey, I'm really pleased you've been lucky enough to have a line manager who understands the importance of genuinely caring for a colleague, especially when life's tough events happen. So many bosses are expected, understandably, to help manage their team's wellbeing, yet they are not given the tools and support, themselves, to do that in the best possible way. Specialist divorce wellbeing programmes are there to help women and men going through divorce and separation - and also line managers, so that, as a team, you get through it more swiftly and flourish in the way it sounds like you are. Colleagues who are cared for, genuinely, make engaged, productive and loyal employees - and that makes good business sense, too, right?


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