Every cloud has a silver lining, they say, and the lockdown years were no exception from an employer-employee relationship point of view. There’s been a shift to accommodating more flexible working, with many individuals with families benefiting from a more sympathetic ear from their employers when it comes to balancing home life with work.
While there are still a few employers out there seeking a mass return to the office, there’s definitely been a shift to a more flexible approach and more innovation in employee benefits. Even those businesses driving staff back to onsite locations to work have widened their repertoire of benefits to make life in the office as appealing as working from home.
A key aspect today of any workplace is accommodating the needs of employees with a family with flexible working options, parental leave policies, parental bereavement leave, fertility support, onsite creches and more.
There’s also a battle for talent going on across many different sectors alongside a workforce seeking more tailored perks from their current and future employers.
Last year’s MetLifeUK survey of 1,200 employees and employers found that 50% of workers would take a pay cut for bespoke benefits. Three-quarters said they would work harder if they had tailored support from their employer.
Yet, in this new era of employee-focused tailored benefits, there is often a gaping hole for when the family breaks down. Which is why the time is ripe for businesses to cater for the unfortunate but inevitable likelihood that members of a workforce will go through a divorce or separation during employment.
The figures speak for themselves. In 2021, there were 113,505 divorces granted in England and Wales. With the introduction of ‘no fault’ divorce in April 2022, making it easier to get a divorce, that number is set to increase.
With more workplace benefits focused towards adapting to different stages in an employee’s life, such as menopause, retirement or starting a family, the next obvious employee benefit is to provide support for family breakdowns too.
New research from the Positive Parenting Alliance (PPA) shows that this is not only the employee who might benefit from employer support during a relationship breakdown. Businesses pay a price too.
The PPA study found that 90% of respondents said that their work performance was impacted when they went through a divorce, while more than 74% admitted that they were less efficient at work and over 39% felt they had to take time off work as a result of their separation.
Though some HR and benefits leaders are ahead of the curve in providing much needed support during the stressful experience of employees going through a divorce, they are in the minority.
The PPA survey showed that just 9% said their employer had specific policies or support for employees going through separation or divorce.
Hopefully, that’s about to change as major employers, including ASDA, Metrobank, NatWest, PwC, Tesco, Unilever and Vodafone among others, collectively employing approximately 587,398 people, sign up to a new initiative with PPA to ensure they provide separation and divorce support to employees, including:
- Recognising separation as a ‘life event’ in HR policy so that those experiencing separation feel recognised and realise that they can access support.
- Ensuring parents going through a separation have access to flexible working to enable them to manage school and childcare pick-ups and drop-offs while they reconfigure their family setups.
- Giving employees access to, and pointing them towards, emotional counselling during this period.
- Signposting and access to separation support services so that parents can have the guidance and support that they need to separate in the most compassionate and child-focussed way.
Businesses signing up to this new initiative will be provided with guidance and support from the Alliance including templates for suitable HR policies on separation. It follows off the back of the Parents’ Promise which is effectively a pre-nuptial agreement between parents and child(ren) to put them first in the case of family breakdown.
Other businesses from the advertising and legal sector have also backed this latest initiative in a sign that a workplace culture change is in the offing to recognise the needs of those employees facing the difficulties associated with separation.
James Hayhurst is founder of the Positive Parenting Alliance