Support | Does 'divorce strain' need to be treated the same way as mental health problems?

Does 'divorce strain' need to be treated the same way as mental health problems?

Divorce is a challenging time, which can have a big impact on a person’s mental health. But is it enough for employers to simply acknowledge this, or should they be providing more specific support for those experiencing the strain of divorce?

A recent pledge signed by major firms to support employees going through a divorce suggests that the latter may be true.

The divorce support pledge

The pledge, which was signed by firms such as Barclays, Lloyds, and Vodafone, commits employers to providing additional support for staff going through a divorce or separation. This includes offering flexible working arrangements, access to counselling services, and signposting to relevant external support services.

The move has been praised by many as a positive step towards recognising the impact that divorce can have on an individual’s wellbeing, and the role that employers can play in supporting them through this difficult time. But is there really a need for employers to offer such specific support, and does divorce ‘strain’ really need to be treated in the same way as mental health?

The statistics suggest that the answer is yes. According to research by the Marriage Foundation, divorce and family breakdown are responsible for almost a third of all absences from work in the UK. This is because the strain of divorce can have a significant impact on an individual’s mental and physical health, as well as their ability to perform in the workplace.

In addition to this, there is evidence to suggest that employers who provide specific support for staff going through a divorce are more likely to retain their talent. A study by the Employee Assistance Professionals Association found that organisations with dedicated divorce support programmes had higher levels of employee satisfaction and retention than those who did not.

What can employers do?

So, what can employers do to support staff going through a divorce or separation? Firstly, it’s important to recognise that every individual’s experience will be different, and what works for one person may not work for another. That said, there are some general steps that employers can take to provide support:

Offer flexible working arrangements. Divorce can often involve a lot of upheaval, particularly if there are children involved. Offering flexible working arrangements, such as the option to work from home or adjust working hours, can help to alleviate some of the stress and allow employees to balance their work and personal commitments.

Provide access to counselling services. Divorce can be an incredibly isolating experience, and many people may feel that they have nobody to turn to for support. Providing access to counselling services can be a valuable lifeline for employees who are struggling.

Signpost to relevant external support services. There are a wealth of external support services available for those going through a divorce or separation, from legal advice to financial planning. Employers can play a valuable role in signposting their staff to these services and ensuring that they are aware of the support that is available to them.

Of course, these are just a few examples of the types of support that employers can offer. The key is to recognise that divorce can have a significant impact on an individual’s wellbeing and ability to perform in the workplace, and to be proactive in providing support where it is needed.

Mental health v divorce strain

However, while divorce support is important, it may not require the same level of resources as mental health. The causes and symptoms of mental health issues are complex and varied, and they often require ongoing support and treatment. On the other hand, divorce is a specific event that has a defined endpoint. While the emotional fallout may linger, most people will eventually move on and adapt to their new circumstances.

Despite this, the recent pledge signed by major firms to support employees going through a divorce is a positive step towards recognising the impact that divorce can have on an individual’s wellbeing. The statistics show that divorce and family breakdown are responsible for a significant proportion of workplace absences, and that employers who provide specific support for staff going through a divorce are more likely to retain their talent. By offering flexible working arrangements, access to counselling services, and signposting to relevant external support services, employers can help to alleviate some of the strain of divorce and support their staff.

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