Should “Divorce leave” be recognised by employers?

July 17, 2023
Claire Withers


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Divorce can be a life changing event which can impact on performance at work.  In January 2023, the Positive Parenting Alliance (PPA) published a report considering the impact of divorce on employees at work.  The PPA is a group of individuals and organisations whose focus is to protect children whose parents are separating. 

The findings of the report showed: –

  • 79% of people said that divorce has impacted their ability to work.
  • 57% did not feel they received the required level of support from their employer.
  • Employees at small/medium businesses are 4 times more likely to leave the company within a year of going through a divorce than if working at a large company.
  • 85% of people at large companies stated their ability to work was affected, including decreased productivity.

The statistics highlight the difficulties faced by those going through a divorce or separation and then need for additional support from employers during what can be a difficult and stressful period.

Sir Andrew McFarlane, president of the family division of the High Court, supports the initiative and hopes that other employers, including the civil service and NHS will adopt the scheme.  He said that employers should be “treating separation as a significant life event, like bereavement or serious illness”.  Some major UK employers including Tesco, Asda, NatWest, PwC, Unilever, Vodafone, and Metro Bank (as well as some law firms) have pledged to recognise “Divorce leave” and have taken steps to implement the initiatives to promote more family-friendly and supportive workplace policies where a person is dealing with separation and divorce.

Under the new proposals, employers are asked to recognise divorce and separation as a “life event” in their HR policies, allow flexible working to enable divorcing parents to manage school and childcare and give access to counselling and support services. 

As a Family Lawyer I see first-hand the impact divorce and separation can have on individuals and their family and very much welcome the new initiatives.  The proposed changes to HR policies could be invaluable to employees dealing with the significant life changes arising from separation and divorce. 

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