Nick Jones, solicitor and Head of Gregg Latchams’ Bristol Employment law team, and Jennifer Pollock, Bristol Family Solicitor, consider the steps an employer can take when an employee is struggling with family breakdown.
Few employers have measures in place to deal with employee family breakdown within the workplace. As an employer, being pro-active could help reduce the impact the situation has on the business and the individual. A business can suffer as a result of an individual going through a family breakdown, because the individual’s anguish, stress and upset at home may spill into the workplace, which can lead to loss of productivity, disruption, stress and occasionally a job loss.
Employers are likely to be tempted to manage the performance rather than manage the individual; this can lead to disastrous consequences as family breakdown can be one of the biggest causes of stress and unhappiness in an individual’s life. With this in mind it makes more sense for employers to be pro-active and acknowledge the role that they are able to play in assisting their employees through the uncertainty of their family breakdown.
Employers can have a big influence in ensuring that employees feel supported during this difficult time by responding effectively, sensitively and with compassion. It is sensible to ensure that your HR policies cover major life changes and that you create a working environment where employees are encouraged to share their concerns with their manager or HR. Some practical steps that you could do as an employer to support your employee include:
- In the short term making allowances for the employee to attend any meetings with their family lawyer or mediation centre, court hearings and any other relevant time out of the workplace;
- Take the employee to one side for an informal one-to-one chat and ask if everything is OK and whether there is anything that you can assist with at work;
- Listen to them and wait until they have finished talking, you may be the only person there to listen to them;
- Encourage the employee to seek help and support as necessary from their GP, divorce coach, therapist or family lawyer (it may be helpful to be able to signpost reputable professionals to encourage the uptake of support); and
- Be mindful and understanding.
If your employee has children be prepared to consider a request for flexible working to support any newly single parents with their childcare arrangements.
If there are ongoing court proceedings you may need to be prepared to assist your employee by providing a letter or other documentation regarding their current employment situation, salary or bonus structure.
Although you can as an employer provide help and support, you must ensure that you do not become directly involved or make promises that you are unable to keep.
This is a sensitive subject matter and each employee will be different in the way they approach it and how it can impact their work life. Handling the situation in the right way will improve the working environment for that individual as well as the other employees.
It is important that you have advice and guidance on all elements surrounding this subject, contact our Employment Solicitors in Bristol. Or contact our Family Team, who offer a range of fixed fee options for initial appointments (up to 1.5hours) starting at £185 plus vat for issues concerning children and £250 plus vat for issues concerning separation and finance.