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Addressing the effects of divorce in the workplace

As well as the emotional cost to the couple, there is also a financial cost that businesses have to take into account. Following a divorce, a significant proportion of people need to take time off from work, and around 1 in 10 have either had to leave their jobs altogether or have had a colleague who has needed to leave. There can be several reasons for this. Aside from the stress of the separation, circumstances may be very different after a divorce. Childcare needs can change, making previous working patterns impossible. Financial needs also change, and couples may need to sell their joint home and move to new accommodation. Understanding these factors can help businesses to deal with what can be a difficult situation for everyone.Firstly, prevention is better than cure. As an employer, you may not feel it is your place to interfere in an employee’s personal life. However, the reality is that it inevitably will affect your business, through turnover of staff, sick leave and “presenteeism” – the tendency for employees to be present but distracted and unproductive due to stress. Recommending that the individual attends Relate or other relationship counselling with their partner is preferable to dealing with the long-term fallout of a divorce. Larger businesses may even provide counselling in-house, since there is a clear economic incentive to do so.If the relationship is definitely ending or has already ended, mediation has a proven track record in reaching mutually beneficial outcomes in agreeing terms for childcare, maintenance and possessions, rather than lengthy, stressful and expensive court battles. Despite this, only 1% of separating couples go to mediation as a first port of call, so there is a clear role for employers to make this recommendation.Lastly, there is likely to be a transition period as employees adjust to new patterns of work, living and childcare. Allowing and encouraging a degree of flexible or part-time working may be preferable to losing an employee altogether and incurring the costs of hiring and training.Have you been affected by a divorce or separation? Talk to us. We are experienced family law specialists and can give you the expert guidance you need. Call 01302 320621 or email

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