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Employers need to be proactive about supporting employees going through divorce, argues Karen Matovu, clinical leader of psychological workplace solutions, at The Validium Group.
With 42% of marriages ending in divorce, according to the Office for National Statistics, the impact on employees is highly relevant to the workplace. Not only are one-third of all adults at risk of developing depression at the onset of separation and divorce, but it can take up to two years for mental distress levels to return to pre-separation norms (Institute for Social and Economic Research, 2014).
This has huge implications for the ability of those going through a break-up to attend and perform at work as they did before. In most cases, not only does the divorcing employee have to come to terms with the loss of their partner, but also the loss of the lifestyle they once took for granted, due to reduced access to any children and the loss of their partner’s income forcing them to accept a compromised home and lifestyle.
All of this requires them to work through the classic stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining (holding onto what they have), depression and sadness – before they can come to terms with what has happened and start seeing the good that might come from the split.
Many employees risk becoming stuck in one of these stages as they refuse to accept their partner’s decision to move on, or experience anger as they risk becoming embroiled in a drawn-out divorce. They might also become aggressive or short-tempered in the workplace and/or depressed.
Divorce is an emotional and practical journey that has to be undertaken. Directing managers to encourage employees coping with divorce to talk to someone they trust, call an employee assistance programme (EAP) or join a divorce support group can help those who are struggling to tap into the support needed to assist them to move through each stage and make any tough decisions.
The longer people take to move through the grief process, the longer they will experience feelings of rejection, failure, shame and guilt, which are an inevitable part of coming to terms with what has happened.
Another way in which employers can help is to encourage employees to stay in control of their divorce, instead of attempting to seek a settlement through the courts. Most employees who seek a court settlement