The stress of a divorce often inevitably bleeds into other aspects of your life. Among the most notable and impactful: Your work. Recognizing the enormous emotional toll and mental health strain that divorce puts on workers, companies are increasingly extending extra support and accommodations to employees in the midst of a family breakup.
Our Somerset divorce lawyers should make clear that such efforts aren’t necessarily legally required by employers. Divorcing or being divorced isn’t considered a protected class for which you’re legally owed special protections.
That said, there are situations where divorce can lead to claims of workplace discrimination, harassment, or wrongful termination. For instance, if your divorce leads to a diagnosis of anxiety, depression, or PTSD, you may be entitled to certain workplace accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This federal law also protects against discrimination on the basis of your medical condition. Accommodations might include things like flexible work schedules, time off for doctor’s appointments, and temporary assignment to less stressful work. Another example of divorce-related workplace harassment would be a worker facing constant taunts or unfair treatment for being a single mother. Something like this could be construed as gender discrimination.
We hope none of our clients experience difficulties like these on top of everything else they’re going through. But the good news is that employers are increasingly recognizing that supporting workers in times of personal crisis can go a long way toward boosting morale and ensuring they keep quality employees.
A Good Housekeeping survey indicated that nearly 70 percent of people getting divorced experience financial strain. An even higher percentage grapple with missing work and lost work productivity for more than one year. The Nashville Business Journal reports that employees’ productivity dips by 40 percent in the first six months of a divorce - with some impacts still notable up to five years later.
Complicating matters for many employees is that divorce tends to be a “9-5 job.” That is, many of the professionals with whom you need to meet to get divorce matters handled are only available weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. These can include lawyers, courts, counselors, public service organizations, and more. The fact that the employee is also working during these hours means effectively navigating the divorce process is tough. Roughly 10 percent of workers quit their jobs due to some factor relating to the stress associated with their divorce.
Companies seeking to offset this impact are finding it worthwhile to invest in employee mental health and financial well-being during these rocky periods. For example, U.S. publishing firm Hearst extended a divorce benefits program to some 1,200 employees that extends SupportPay platform services free. The platform provides comprehensive parenting time management and child support payments for co-parents. According to the BBC, the company is also providing divorcing workers with free therapy sessions and even covering some of their legal costs. A top executive for the company explained supporting employees through their separation leads to stronger mental health - and improved productivity.
Other employers have reportedly introduced initiatives that set family-friendly policies for employees going through divorce. These include offering flexibility with work schedules, time off (paid and otherwise), counseling, and support for things like increased childcare services. Such efforts are taking hold especially in regions with tighter labor markets. Workers who feel supported at their jobs are more likely to keep their job and also bounce back more quickly in terms of being productive.
Business leaders note that in the long-run, benefits like these don’t cost that much in the grand scheme of things because they aren’t used all that often. But they can go a long way toward helping impacted workers make a fresh start in a better head space.
Not every employer will offer this type of assistance, but it may not hurt to ask your boss what is available. You might be pleasantly surprised with what you find out.
Our New Jersey divorce lawyers can assist clients with divorce, division of assets, prenuptial agreements, child custody disputes, and more. Call us at (732) 810-0034 or visit us online.