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Employers recognise divorce and separation as leading risk to mental health

10 October 2017 - A nationwide evaluation of the impact of divorce and separation on employees begins today with the aim of helping major employers come to grips with a risk to productivity still regarded as taboo by many HR and wellbeing professionals.

Launched on World Mental Health Day, the independent evaluation is being spearheaded by specialist provider Dialogue First which supports employees at a time of relationship breakdown. Evaluation partners include BMW Group UK and the Royal College of Nursing.

In accordance with the evaluation, Dialogue First will make available a pioneering family law service called Lawyer-Supported Mediation, capable of supporting a divorcing employee and their separating partner. The University of Liverpool will be independently evaluating the first 50 Lawyer-Supported Mediation cases to further explore the impact on mental wellbeing and explore the connection with workplace productivity.

Jayne Carrington, co-founder of Dialogue First, said: “The data has long been saying that separation is second only to bereavement as a risk to mental ill-health. It actually takes employees longer to recover emotionally from separation than it does the death of a loved one. Employers have been slow to realise EAP and other wellbeing services do not have this risk covered and that a more specialist response is needed.”

From today, the Royal College of Nursing and BMW Group UK – including its business mobility division Alphabet (GB) Ltd – will signpost impacted employees to Dialogue First for a free legal consultation with a family lawyer. The offer is also made available to the employee’s partner. Dialogue First is able to uniquely support an employee and their family longer-term by leveraging its fully integrated UK network of family lawyers and family mediators.

Liz Laughton, Head of Human Resources Director and People Development at the Royal College of Nursing, said: “We’re committed to enhancing the wellbeing of our people and given the high risk of depression associated with divorce and separation, we recognise the value of enhancing the support available at what can be the most difficult of times. We want to know that our people - and their family - are being helped in a way that’s affordable and aligned with good mental health.”

Adam Lupton, Human Resources Director at Alphabet (GB) Ltd, said: “Mental health at work is not something you can divide between the office and home. That’s a real challenge for employers so the evaluation is an excellent opportunity for us to continue our innovation and learning as an HR team."

The evaluation is open to participation by major employers, trade unions and professional membership bodies across the UK. It builds on a previous 18-month pilot led by Dialogue First and six EAP providers that first unearthed a widespread lack of risk management around divorce & separation among employers.

The results of the current evaluation will be published by the University of Liverpool in the first half of 2019.

Key stats:

Census data from 2011 states 72% of the adult household population adults aged 25 to 64 will be married or cohabiting. (Source: ONS DC1107EW and DC1108EW)

42 percent of marriages end in divorce. Over 90% of divorces happen to those of working age. (Source: ONS)

Between April to June 2017, the employment rate for married or cohabiting men was 92.7% and for women 75.3% (Source: ONS)

Research compiled by the Institute for Social and Economic Research in 2014 showed between a third and half of adults are at risk of depression at the onset of separation and divorce.

Samaritans have described a causal association between relationship breakdown and suicide and cite research that found the risk of suicide amongst divorced men was almost three times that of married men.