What can you do to help employees through divorce?

Written by
Tom Ritchie

21 Sep 2016

21 Sep 2016 • by Tom Ritchie

There are few celebrity stories that move the needle quite like a celebrity marriage. In fact, the only other headline that takes precedence on the sidebar of shame is a celebrity divorce.

Yesterday, after two years of marriage and 12 years together, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie announced they were to divorce, citing irreconcilable differences. The saga looks set to continue, as more dirt gets dished, custody hearings are held and Jennifer Aniston fans bask in the faint glow of Brangelina’s misery.

Supporting someone in your life going through divorce affects far more people than just those breaking up. Be it a friend, parent or a colleague, much of the stresses can filter through into other relationships. In 2013, there were over 110,000 divorces in the UK, so chances are there will be someone in your company going through the arduous process at some point in the not too distant future.

So, as an employer, what can you do to ease the pain? David Price, group director of Health Assured, believes that it’s about recognising the upheaval such a life event can cause: “Employers cannot ignore the impact of a relationship breakdown may have on the welfare and productivity of their employees. 

“Employees may find themselves in a position of uncertainty about their family, the future, whilst being financial, childcare and living difficulties.”

More often than not, work comes second. The anxiety of dealing with issues such as child support, looming legal procedures and financial disagreements can be all consuming. While professional obligations may take a back seat for an employee, the employers’ obligation of care must take precedence. 

Price commented: “Employers can have a huge influence in ensuring that their employees feel supported when going through relationship breakdowns by running employee assistance programmes that offer staff confidential support including counselling, information, guidance and referrals on any work, personal or family issues.”

While these programmes may be of help, it’s important to offer a bespoke support system for each employee. We all deal with stress in different ways, and while some employees will need time away from the office to cope, others may become more focused on the task at hand: “Each employee will respond differently to a relationship breakdown. 

“Some employees will find solace in work and find them able to stay focused and productive, while others will feel threatened by the prospect of losing their source of security and everyday lifestyle as they knew it. They could benefit from being assigned less stressful projects at work and given more flexibility, or even some time off, to help them deal with their breakdown.”