How to support a colleague going through divorce

Following nearly two years of pandemic-related lockdowns, uncertainty, and unpredictable restrictions, many Australians have re-evaluated their careers. Creating a movement in the workplace like never before seen, many have prioritised work-life balance.  

By Bill Kordos, Head of Family Law at AFL-Kordos, Melbourne.

In today’s competitive job market, employees (particularly high-performing talent) expect a high level of support from their employers. Things like counselling and holistic wellness opportunities are no longer nice-to-have options, but rather “must haves”. And today’s talent isn’t satisfied with Friday night drinks or the occasional off-site.

David Berlusconi, Human Resources Manager at Australian Family Lawyers said this is reflective of the point of talent engagement where in the past, remuneration, career progression and work-life balance used to be the typical primary motivators.

“However, during the course of the pandemic, we saw a greater shift towards working from home, and the inherent work health and safety and other ramifications that stem from that.”

Many leading businesses are looking to create a compelling support structure for their team that goes beyond the traditional policies – in order to stand out to new employees and retain talented teams.

Your company’s benefits impact your reputation – how you are known in your industry, and beyond – your workplace might support some wellbeing incentives – but what about support for when relationships breakdowns?

In this article, we examine a few helpful ideas on how to support a colleague or employee who is going through a divorce. Keep reading.

How to support a colleague going through divorce

Although statistics show that 33% of Australian marriages will end in divorce, countless more de facto or partnership relationships will fall apart each year as well. In fact, the divorce rate in 2021 was forecast to be a huge 52,117, a rise of 4.3% from 2020. These numbers have been on the rise since the 1970s when the Family Law Act introduced no-fault divorce. Ongoing pressures on relationships – from COVID lockdowns, unprecedented inflation and the rental crisis – have played a part as well.

While you may feel that these statistics don’t personally impact you, divorce and separation are certainly impacting a large percentage of Australians in 2022 – with a certain impact on every workplace as well.

As a manager or employer, it’s critical that you understand how divorce or separation could impact your workplace, and how you can support your colleague or team if they’re going through a divorce when they’re faced with this bumpy and emotional terrain.

Why does it matter?

At any given time, there may be team members in your workplace going through a divorce or separation, or simply leaving a relationship. Almost invariably this will impact the employee’s work life, as well as their personal life.

Loss of productivity

Researchers estimate that a divorcing employee’s performance can decline between 50% to 75% due to a loss of focus and motivation, as well as time spent managing the legal, financial and psychological issues that arise. And this can cost a workplace thousands per year in lost productivity.

Having the right support in place to help your team during these difficult times is not only a benefit to the employee but to your business as well.

Higher staff turnover

All life changes can lead to turnover, and divorce and separation are no different. Childcare and home responsibilities, higher financial obligations and more can begin to fall more heavily on the employee’s shoulders making it more difficult for them to focus on their work life in the same way. In fact one study out of the UK shows that nearly 10% of employees going through divorce or separation felt they had to leave their jobs as a result.

Employee turnover can have a significant impact on your bottom line. The effective cost of replacing an employee can be anywhere between 30% and 150% of their salary (depending on your industry). Even on the lower end of this estimate at 30% of their salary, this can be a substantial expense for any business.

Poor employee culture

Your support of your employees – whether they’re going through a divorce or separation or not – is a critical part of your overall culture. Your ability to support them when they are going through difficult times can create a positive workplace culture which has fantastic benefits, including:

  • improved teamwork
  • increased morale
  • increased productivity
  • greater efficiency
  • enhanced retention
  • increased job satisfaction
  • better collaboration
  • improved job performance
  • reduced stress

On the other hand, if you aren’t able to offer support or end up adding to the employee’s distress and difficulties due to workplace culture, those benefits will turn into negatives. You could expect decreased teamwork and collaboration and lowered productivity and job performance.

Implementing a corporate Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

Your employees are people first and foremost. And that means they won’t always be able to leave their personal lives at home, particularly during a relationship breakdown.

When considering a Corporate Employee Assistance Program look for ways to support your team both during and after a divorce or separation. This might include:

  • financial advice
  • legal advice
  • holistic health and wellness support and advice
  • counselling
  • childcare support
  • additional leave time
  • a flexible work schedule
  • one-on-one time
  • leave for domestic violence

Whether you need all of these elements in your own workplace, or just some of them, depends on your industry and your employees. However, your support is vital. It will bring benefits to your employees of course, but also to your business as a whole.

How we can help: Our corporate services

At Australian Family Lawyers, we are experts at managing complex family relationships and breakdowns and understand the impacts of this in the workplace. Our Corporate Services program can integrate into your employee benefits program and support your employee’s wellbeing as they work through divorce or separation, as well as parenting or property matters.

Working together we can help educate and support you and your team whenever relationship breakdowns occur – or before they do! Our Corporate Services program offers:

  • Confidential, complimentary 30-minute appointment
  • Discounts on our hourly rate
  • Family law education for your team
  • Online resources, including hundreds of articles on family law topics
  • A landing page and email for your team to confidentially get in contact with us
  • Online appointments for your convenience or the ability to meet our team in over 15 locations across Australia

Our program supports your team with tailored solutions – we have acted for a variety of organisations from banks to unions, partnerships and corporations, both for them and for their members.

Bill Kordos, Head of Family Law in Victoria, has observed that often employers need advice on their obligations if they receive a subpoena about their employees, or they themselves are joined to proceedings.

“With the staff, we have formed close ties with the business contacts and without exception, the employees have provided excellent feedback and gratefulness for their employer’s support during their time of need”.

For one of our ASX listed companies we partner with nationally, we have successfully provided law support to their employees.

“Our team feels we have gone the extra mile to support them and those who come to our company through this relationship. AFL do what they say but in an empathetic and holistic way with a commitment to our people and clients to support them through their personal relationship issues. They are great for our company.” 

If you’d like to chat about how our Corporate Services can support you on how to support a colleague or employee going through divorce, get in touch with us at 1300 479 174 or request a call back via the form below.

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