A NEW proposal to recognise divorce and separation as a ‘life event’ and for employers to have appropriate human resources policies is recently being considered by some of the UK’s major employers.
That could create a precedent for small firms, Saddleworth employment solicitor Susan Mayall has said.
Recently, some bigger employers have partnered with the Positive Parenting Alliance (PPA) to create a brand new initiative supporting staff going through divorce.
The aim is to create a series of family friendly HR policies to essentially treat it as bereavement.
But their action could see changes along the business chain.
“Firms such as Asda, Metro Bank, Tesco, Unilever and PwC are among those looking to review their policies and of course this could have a knock-on effect,” said Susan, of Pearson Solicitors, who represent many local businesses.
“I always encourage my employment clients to have an open and frank relationship with their staff and I would hope that most of them would be supportive in any distressing family situation.
“However, recognising separation as a ‘life event’ in HR policy is however something different than lending a sympathetic ear.”
The aim of the PPA initiative is for businesses to:
- Give parents going through divorce and separation access to flexible working to help them manage childcare arrangements
- Give employees access to emotional counselling
- Consider if staff can have time off for legal meetings, court hearings and counselling
- Consider workloads and try not to over pressure them at this time
- Give those affected access to other relevant support services
- Have a specific HR policy to refer to for divorcing and separating parents
This has been backed up by a recent survey which found that nine out of 10 employees say it has affected their working lives and their ability to do their job, with half fearing they might lose their jobs at the same time.
In addition, it found that anxiety and mental health are affected and staff can become short-tempered with colleagues and clients.
The survey revealed 95 per cent of people going through divorce felt this way, with three-quarters saying they were less efficient at work and four in 10 needing time off.
The PPA now hopes employers will play a key role in helping steer their staff through divorce and incorporate it formally into their HR policies.
“Whilst it’s a fact that going through a separation is life changing and at times all consuming, there is of course a limit to how far an employer’s responsibility goes,” added Susan
“It does of course depend on the size of the workforce, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) could be hit particularly hard if staff were off for unlimited periods, but there is a difference between the ‘nice to do’ and employment law and that is where I can advise clients.
“However, at the same time retaining staff and having a happy workforce is a productive business, so as with most things in employment law it is often a balance.”