The Responsibly of Human Resources During Divorce
A common struggle for millions of workers across the country is divorce. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, half of all marriages end in divorce. While the statistics speak loudly, companies need to realize that these numbers represent many of their employees’ past, current, or future experiences.
For human resource departments nationwide, there is a common goal to support, encourage, and ensure the well-being of employees. That’s why I believe there is a crossroads when it comes to work and family which includes divorce. There is a duty of HR departments to recognize this and find ways to address it. While many believe there is a fine line between personal life and work life, I believe one impacts the other and there needs to be a junction where it all comes together.
I’ve written about this topic many times before, including this blog about how divorce impacts conflict in the workplace. I’ve also included this in my book, The Cure for Divorce Culture. The research in this book explains a process which can be utilized by employers and human resources departments nationwide. The collaborative practice can be applied in the workplace when human resources professionals approach issues, disputes, and dissension among employees. Through these platforms and many more, I’m working to help companies identify how they can improve their understanding of divorce and the various divorce processes to create a safer, courteous, and respectful environment. There are many ways that HR departments and HR professionals can offer ways to help employees.
As an attorney with extensive experience in alternative dispute resolution, I encourage HR departments and Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) to add a network of collaborative law attorneys to their services. Collaborative family law is a session-driven dispute resolution process which is proven to be less destructive to children and less stressful on external relationships, friendships, and careers. This type of divorce method is an out-of-court process which doesn’t involve a courtroom or judge. If employers offer their employees a way to find collaborative family law attorneys, they will provide them with the needed information about these services to help them find a better way to divorce.
Allow Time Off
No matter the method of divorce, the process will likely require an employee to miss some days of work due to proceedings, meetings, and/or counseling. Companies should look at leave options to allow for these types of absences without counting it against an employee.
Collaborative divorce is also beneficial for the employer because these proceedings are known to take less time meaning employees won’t miss as many days of work compared to traditional litigation since they won’t have to attend court dates or custody hearings. Collaborative divorce will allow employees to move on with their lives faster and be able to get back to work to focus on their jobs, careers, and professional tasks rather than be caught up in a divorce that takes years to finalize.
Understand the Process
A person going through divorce is likely experiencing conflict at home and doesn’t want to have the same experience at work. How companies perceive divorce can have a large impact on their employees’ happiness and success. If a company is able to show their support, this can create a safer, courteous, and respectful environment for the divorcing employee. As a divorcee myself, I know how difficult it can be to balance a career during divorce. Having an employer that values the personal and emotional well-being of their employees makes the process easier.
When an employee feels supported by their employer, they perform better and work better with those around them. Letting employees know they have available resources and support helps them to continue to be productive, even during divorce. As an employee ends their marriage, there may be a period of grief, loss, and sadness. HR professionals can help employees as divorce is considered a transformative and life-changing experience. In terms of benefits, it is also considered a life-changing event. There are various ways to do this including:
- Providing an easy way to update personal information like spousal information, home address, legal names, emergency contacts, etc.
- Offering details on health insurance and benefits whether this means removing a former spouse from the policy, making changes to coverage, or enrolling in a new policy. It’s important to note that divorce is considered a COBRA qualifying event. That means if a spouse is removed from health care coverage due to a divorce, COBRA must be offered to that spouse at the time of the divorce.
- Aiding in the change of details to life insurance and retirement plans if this involves removing a former spouse and reassigning beneficiaries.
Companies and corporations should consider collecting statistics on divorce among their employees. Unlike death or illness, human resource departments do not keep track of how many of their employees are divorced or going through a divorce. If they have this information, they can better help them personally and professionally.
I’ve spoken to groups and companies nationwide about how managers and human resource professionals can sensitively approach an employee during the process of divorce or separation. Through my method, company representatives will learn how to develop a concise plan of action while tracking data related to conflict for greater result measures. If done correctly, this strategy will increase employee retention, decrease employee stress, improve trust and communication, enhance productivity, and maintain employee performance.
In addition to being a child of divorce, divorce attorney, and divorcee, I’m also a small business owner and employer. I value my employees and their well-being in all aspects of their lives. I encourage other companies to do the same. By gathering perspective of professionals in the divorce industry, employers can better understand how they can assist and support their employees who are experiencing separation and divorce.
If your management team is interested in learning more about the crossroads of divorce and family in the workplace, please contact me, Ashley-Nicole Russell. I’m here to help and would be honored to be of professional assistance to your company. I’m currently offering consultations for businesses on how to best manage conflict, implement divorce support programs, and track data related to conflict for greater result measures. Send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we can talk about ways to gather perspective on the responsibly of human resources during an employee’s divorce.