What price divorce in the Workplace?

24 February 2016

There have been some interesting facts that have emerged recently from research about the impact of divorce and separation in the workplace.

The impact of divorce or separation is painful for couples, their children, families and friends. It is often described as similar to bereavement, with the associated turmoil of emotions of denial, anger, acceptance and adjustment. However unlike bereavement, you may still need to be in contact with your former partner, especially if you have children, as you will still need to make decisions together about their future needs. Parents often find this the emotionally challenging part of divorce or separation.

Until recently, less has been focussed on the impact of divorce and separation at work, both for individuals directly concerned, their employer, and colleagues.

Recent research commissioned by Resolution, has some stark messages about the wider impact of divorce in the workplace. The facts are.

  • It is estimated that it costs the UK economy around £46 billion a year (source British Chamber of Commerce)
  • Further, 9% of those contacted had to leave their job, or had a colleague who had to as a result of separation or divorce. 15% also reported that separation or divorce had had a negative impact on productivity.
  • A further 16% reported that they, or a colleague had had to take sick leave as a direct result of divorce or separation, and a report by the Institute for Social Economic Research indicated between 1/3 and 1/2 experienced sufficient mental health anxiety to see a GP with stress levels taking up to 2 years to return to pre separation levels.

Despite this, only 10% of those responding to the survey felt that their employer offered the right level of support for those experiencing divorce and separation with 34% feeling that more could be done. 

There are no simple solutions. However employers and their Directors of Human Resources are responsible for the health and wellbeing of their employees. As the research above indicates, the negative impact in not looking after the health and wellbeing of their workforce can be significant.

Employers need to recognise the inevitable. Many of their employees are directly or indirectly going to face divorce or separation and it is going to have a negative impact on them, their colleagues and the workplace. The more employers recognise this, by supporting their staff when they are going through divorce or separation by allowing them time away from work for them to see a mediator or a family lawyer, the sooner their staff can return to work, be productive and efficient.

The Institute for Social Economic Research also conducted research between 1996-2011, and found only 1% of those divorcing or legally separating went to family mediation. However, Family Mediation is generally agreed to be a cost effective, speedy, and in 60-70% of cases, capable of helping couples reach agreement about their housing needs, finances or arrangements for their children. Done well, working alongside family lawyers, couples can reach acceptable agreement, without having to argue their case through the family courts.

If you are going through a separation, or know someone who is our Mediation Service is here to help.

The above is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.