Should employee incentives include divorce surgeries?

For owner managers seeking the often illusive work/life balance, the boundaries between their personal and business lives become blurred – and a seasonal introspection may reinforce that more than a superficial lick of paint is needed to put right deep-rooted relationship issues and business challenges.

It’s a sad reality that at this time of year family laws specialists like me see a rise in enquiries from concerned couples wanting to start divorce proceedings – be it litigating via the courts or increasingly, as I have experienced, going down the mediation path – to avoid the stress and trauma of court confrontations.

This year the challenges for divorcing couples will be exacerbated with the imminent demise of legal aid on April 1. This, in my opinion, short sighted development, spearheaded by the Government in a bid to further reduce public spending, will preclude many couples from receiving free or subsidised access to affordable expert legal advice for family matters including financial issues, residency and contact with their children.

Ironically, those most affected by the demise of Legal Aid are the most vulnerable and least wealthy – and, dependent upon the type of business you are running – may include your own employees who are struggling with relationship breakdowns.

So what can employers, who take their duty of care towards their staff very seriously, do to help? When looking at this from a commercial perspective, we recall the myriad of studies which highlight that employees with emotional issues are invariably less productive. Fatigued and distracted, their concentration levels plummet and they find it hard to manage workloads and deadlines.

In light of the fact that 42% of UK marriages are expected to end in divorce – when reviewing your employee benefits and incentives in your spring clean checklist – you may want to consider investing in surgeries and enlisting the services of a qualified family lawyer who can talk through the options available to them.

Admittedly such surgeries, which can be conducted discreetly offsite to encourage staff to take advantage of the opportunity, do not feature in the traditional tick list of perks and benefits such as pension schemes, additional holidays, health insurance and gym memberships.

They could, however, make a world of difference to a distressed member of staff who does not know which way to turn – and who has no comprehension of how the frugal financial assets they may have jointly accrued over years or decades will be divided up. I frequently find that negotiations over a couple’s outgoings and finances can be more complex than the divorce itself.

If you are experiencing such relationship concerns as a business owner, imagine how scared your employees – who may also be in a similar position – are about coping with the traumas of separation, isolation, finances and childcare?

In the same way that an office spring clean heralds new beginnings, being equipped with the relevant information about the options available to your people can help them to accept that although it’s impossible to put the clock back, it is possible to move forward one small step at a time.

Ultimately – and irrespective of whether we are alluding to employers or employees – action as opposed to procrastination must be top of everyone’s agenda in an untenable situation.

In my experience, the worst scenario for beleaguered individuals whose relationships have broken down is to brush their concerns under the carpet in the hope that the dust will settle.

It invariably never does and delays can negatively impact on the collective health, well-being and profitability of business owners who have grafted long and hard for their companies, employees whose diminishing productivity and misery will rub off on their colleagues – and customers whose pipeline and fees keep the company in business and its staff in gainful employment.


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