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SMEs are ‘worst for break-up support’

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Rising divorce rates most likely to hit small firms with brain drain

Employees of SMEs who have gone through a relationship breakdown are four times more likely to leave than those at large companies – and UK SMEs are nearly three times more likely to let the employee go post-relationship breakdown. In fact, 2.3% of SME employees were let go within the year and the redundancy rate per number of employees in 2020 was 0.8% (ONS Labour Market Statistics).

The 2021 Divorce in the Workplace study, conducted by Rayden Solicitors from 133 UK companies, found that divorce created a period of ‘breakup trauma’ – and 4 in every 5 UK employees who had been through divorce or relationship breakdown stated that it had an impact on their ability to work.

Most damningly, it found that 57% of SME employees stated that insufficient support post-relationship breakdown caused them anxiety, depression, or stress; 30% said their productivity suffered; and 16% had to take sick or unpaid leave post-relationship breakdown.

How can SMEs improve their support?

With SMEs accounting for 99.9% of the business population (6 million businesses), according to the Federation of Small Businesses, and 60% of all private sector jobs in the UK (a total of 16.6 million), according to the UK Department for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy, it’s in the interests of UK plc’s recovery to diffuse this time bomb.

According to the study, employees identified the following key areas for improvement to ease the process of going through a divorce in the workplace:

  • More support for mental wellbeing (42%)
  • Offer compassionate leave (32%)
  • Provide recommendations for external support (27%)
  • More privacy on the matter & better protection from HR (6%)
  • Wider workplace culture improvements (11%)

Commenting on the findings, Senior Partner at Rayden Solicitors Katherine Rayden, said: “SMEs 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 SME employers to meet this need.”

Kirsten Keen, HR expert at Cluer HR, added: “If that person is a valued, respected member of the business, it surely goes without saying that it’s 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. 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 homelife and are open about problems can also be helpful.”

Photo courtesy of Canva.com


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