Why should employers be aware of the season of separation?


Many people returning to work after the holiday season are ready to swap stories with colleagues about comical family moments over the Christmas break.  While a good time is usually had and merry mishaps forgiven by New Year’s Eve, there are some family situations that don’t see the year ending on a high. In fact, the first working Monday after Christmas has been dubbed “Divorce Day” due to family lawyers reporting higher than usual enquiries on this day.

Relationships can break down at any time, for any number of reasons. But January has a few other factors to throw into the mix. From intense family time over the holidays to an end-of-year bonus helping to make solicitors’ fees. Add to this a seasonal “new year, new me” attitude and it’s suddenly peak season for separation.

The sad truth is that 42% of marriages end in divorce. At one time or another, a member of your staff could be struggling to cope with theirs.

Why is this important to employers? Whilst relationship troubles are personal and best kept out of the workplace, it’s pertinent to note that the magnitude of a divorce can be difficult for a person to manage. Proceedings can be long, painful and expensive, adding stress on top of feelings similar to those associated with grief. And if children are involved, it can present an even bigger challenge.
A prolonged increase in stress can lead to depression and impact an individual’s ability to cope with day-to-day life, including work. When personal problems appear in the workplace, productivity can take a hit and your business can suffer. But above all else, you’ll want to show employees that you care about their well-being.

Support for employees going through a divorce. Due to the sensitive nature of divorce, an employee may be suffering in silence. Conveying an approachable and non-judgemental demeanour may help them to open up and admit that they are struggling. In addition, regular catch-ups with employees, whether through informal chats or scheduled 121’s, provide opportunities for open and honest discussion.

Once you are aware of a problem you can look for ways to help and let the employee know that they are not alone. A little understanding and support can go a long way. It may help to reconsider their workload, delegate certain tasks to others or offer flexible work arrangements.

The employee likely has a long emotional journey ahead of them. And so signposting professional counselling and support groups will be helpful. Your employee assistance programme (EAP) will be a good place to start if you have one. If not, ask us. Meanwhile, recommended organisations such as Family Lives, Only Mums and Only Dads can provide specific advice and support.

Support for your business. Managing a sensitive issue with an employee can raise many questions regarding your responsibilities and legal obligations. It can also require dedicated time which you may not always have readily available.

Read more and get advice.