Supporting Employees going through a Divorce
A proposal to recognise divorce and separation as a ‘life event’ and for employers to have appropriate workplace policies is currently being considered by some of the UK’s major employers and a precedent could be created for small firms.
Some of the largest UK employers have partnered with the Positive Parenting Alliance (PPA) to create a new initiative supporting employees going through a divorce. The aim is to create a series of workplace policies to essentially treat divorce leave like bereavement leave.
Workplace Divorce Leave Policies
Firms such as Asda, Metro Bank, Tesco, Unilever and PwC are amongst those looking to review their workplace policies and of course, this could have a knock-on effect, says Employment Law Solicitor Susan Mayall.
“I always encourage employers to have an open and frank relationship with their employees and I would hope that most of them would be supportive in any distressing family situation. However, recognising divorce and separation as a ‘life event’ in workplace policies is however something different than lending a sympathetic ear,”
The aim of the PPA initiative is to encourage businesses to:
- Give parents going through divorce and separation access to flexible working to help them manage childcare arrangements
- Give employees access to emotional counselling
- Consider if employees can have time off for legal meetings, court hearings and counselling
- Consider workloads and try not to pressure employees during this time
- Give those affected access to other relevant support services
- Have a specific workplace policy for divorcing and separating parents
Divorce and Work Performance
The PPA maintains that employees who are experiencing a divorce or separation may be unproductive and this could have an impact on the business and employers.
This has been backed up by a survey which found that nine out of ten employees say that divorce has affected their performance at work and their ability to do their job, with half of those surveyed fearing they might lose their jobs. The survey also found that employees going through a divorce could be affected by anxiety and become short-tempered towards work colleagues or clients, with three-quarters feeling less efficient at work and four out of ten people needing time off.
“Whilst it’s a fact that going through a divorce or separation can be life changing and at times all consuming, there is of course a limit to how far an employer’s responsibility goes,” adds Susan Mayall.
“It does of course depend on the size of the workforce, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) could be hit particularly hard if staff were off for unlimited periods, but there is a difference between the ‘nice to do’ and employment law and that is where we can advise businesses and HR managers. However, at the same time retaining employees and having a happy workforce is a productive business so as with most things in employment law it is often a balance,” says Susan.
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