HR urged to do more for working dads hit by divorce grief

With rising divorce rates due to the pandemic ‘divorce grief’ is set to become a bigger issue and working dads are hit hardest

financial pressure stress


Working dads are particularly hit by ‘divorce grief’ in the event of a relationship break up.

That’s the findings of new research into how divorce impacts people’s work lives. The researchers call for HR teams to recognise divorce grief and take steps to support employees. Otherwise they risk losing talent, particularly among working dads.

Flexible working and childcare support are key recommendations to support workers going through a relationship break up.

The Divorce in the Workplace study from Rayden Solicitors is particularly pertinent as divorce rates increase. Many blame lockdown and the pandemic for the spike in relationship breakdown. It means more employees will experience divorce grief.


Almost two thirds of parents said their employer failed to offer sufficient support when they were going through a split. And 60% said that divorce had impacted their mental health causing stress, anxiety or depression.

Nearly all men – 93% – questioned for the study said divorce impacted their ability to work. But only 74% of women agreed. A third of all parents said divorce had led to a reduction in their productivity. 

Retaining working dad talent

Supporting those going through a divorce or break up is important to retaining talent, particularly working dads. Parents are twice as likely as non-parents to quit work after a divorce.

In the worst cases, nearly one in every eight employees will leave their company within a year of going through a divorce if not provided adequate support by their company. This compares to one in 20 of those that did have sufficient support. This was particularly an issue in SMEs, where employees are four times more likely to leave the company within a year of going through a divorce than those working at a large company. One in 50 employees were let go by their employees within a year of a divorce.


Flexible working is seen as a key tool to help employees cope with a divorce. Around a quarter of parents said they had to take sick leave or unpaid leave due to a split. Some of that time would be needed to attend solicitors meetings or legal proceedings.

Employees identified the following key areas for improvement in the workplace to ease the process of going through a divorce:

  • More support for mental wellbeing – 42% stated that their company could have provided more psychological and mental health support.
  • Greater potential for flexible working – 33% wanted more leeway on flexible working to attend separation proceedings and meetings.
  • Offer compassionate leave – 32% felt that an offer of compassionate leave would have better supported them.
  • Provide recommendations for external support – 27% wanted more simple recommendations for support organisations or separation counselling.
  • More privacy on the matter – 26% felt there was too much gossip from colleagues, and wanted better protection from HR to keep privacy.

Work was also identified as a factor in many splits. 11% of employees said work pressure contributed to their relationship ending. Working parents were more than twice as likely to say that lockdown and working from home through the last year contributed to their divorce. That follows figures suggesting divorce rates have increased during the pandemic.


Commenting on the findings, Senior Partner at Rayden Solicitors Katherine Rayden, said, “We might think of divorce as a very private and personal issue. But the truth is that going through a divorce is something that weighs down on every aspect of that person’s life. For those divorcing who might spend the majority of their daily lives in a job role, work life is no exception to this. 

“Divorce will often be an emotional process, and it’s clear from this data that individuals’ work lives are negatively impacted by the emotional strain of divorce.  It seems that there is more that could be done by HR teams and workplaces to minimise the ripple effect of a divorce. 

“Employers need to be sensitive to the fact that divorce can affect their staff beyond their personal lives. Providing the appropriate support will put employees in a better position to cope with their divorce. It’s in the best interest of both the business and its people for employers to meet this need.”

Being flexible

Kirsten Keen, HR expert at Cluer HR, said, “With most relationship breakdowns comes a huge amount of stress, hurt and heartbreak and from that breeds lack of concentration, low mood and even depression. All this is inevitably going to impact on a person’s ability to perform well in their role. If that person is a valued, respected member of the business, it surely goes without saying that it’s therefore in the business’s interest to support that person through their difficult time – continuing to get the best from them and ultimately, retaining talent.

“It can be as simple as being flexible. Allowing employees to attend solicitor meetings and court hearings in work time, for example. Offering counselling services to staff – not just for issues that relate directly to work, but for personal issues, such as relationship breakdowns. Nurturing a culture whereby people talk about their home life and are open about problems can also be helpful.

“Yes, you might lose a bit of time by allowing them to attend solicitor appointments, for example. But if that helps to make them feel less stressed and get their life sorted, the employer will benefit in the long-run too – retaining an employee who can concentrate on their work, be more productive and who feels valued and understood!”

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