Would $8,300 Earn You A Promotion?

Research confirms what HR Professionals already knew:  employees that are in the divorce process are often less productive, stressed, and more prone to distractions and increased absenteeism.

A recent study by Integrated Organizational Development estimated the cost per worker going through a divorce at about $8,300, an amount that not only quantifies the decrease in productivity of the affected employee, but that number also incorporates a supervisor’s involvement and co-workers who absorb the “employee’s slack.”

What can HR professionals do about divorce’s costs?  Happily, these strategies – Train, Inform, and Protect – not only guard the bottom line, but also serve the interests of an employee who may be in crisis.

Train Supervisors to Handle Subordinate’s Personal Disclosures Appropriately.  Maintaining professional distance when an employee is facing a personal crisis can be difficult.  Accommodating the employee’s need for a sympathetic ear or advice, however, may deter the employee from getting the professional advice or other resources that are needed or contribute to performance issues.  Provide supervisors with strategies that promote appropriate boundaries.

Maintain Information About Divorce Resources within the HR Office.  Every HR office should have a “Divorce Packet” that includes information about divorce and COBRA coverage, QDRO Information, and any employee benefits that relate to legal, financial, or mental health services.  Other information that an HR Office may choose to provide includes contact information for attorney referrals, Divorce Professional directories (such as Mediators and Certified Divorce Financial Analysts), mental health practitioners’ professional associations or a licensing agencies (such as the Secretary of State for Marriage and Family Therapists), and other divorce services (such as Visions Anew Institute and Divorce Recovery programs).

Address Workplace Safety Issues.  Unfortunately, many domestic relationships involve violence.  In instances of divorce, domestic violence can be a real concern that can infiltrate the workplace.  Take steps to make it easy for employees to share concerns about violence with the Company through supervisor training and an informational policy that can be found in the Handbook.  Such policies can be specific with regard to how to report threats and to whom in the Human Resources office a court issued Protective Order should be delivered.

HR Professionals have an opportunity to make a difference in their organizations by being prepared to proactively address divorce, a recurring issue, in the workplace and quantify the impact.

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Author: Jennifer Keaton

Ms. Keaton is a practicing attorney in the State of Georgia who serves as a mediator and arbitrator of disputes, conducts school and workplace investigations (e.g., sexual harassment complaints), and provides other neutral services. Ms. Keaton mediates various kinds of disputes. In addition to her expertise in Labor & Employment matters, Ms. Keaton also mediates separations and divorces. Married with three children and a former school teacher, Ms. Keaton provides separating parents with mediation support that keeps children's interests at the forefront of the resolution in how families move forward after a break-up. Parents who want to minimize the impact of their separation appreciate the attention paid to non-legal aspects of separation and divorce. Ms. Keaton's legal practice has focused on Labor & Employment matters for nearly a decade. She graduated from Davidson College and earned her M.Ed. from Columbia University. After teaching school, Ms. Keaton worked for the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the North Carolina Legal Aid as a Martin Luther King Fellow. After earning her law degree at Wake Forest University, Ms. Keaton began her career as an attorney in Atlanta, Georgia in 2001. Her practice predominantly involves civil rights (discrimination, harassment, retaliation), constitutional (First Amendment, privacy, Due Process, Equal Protection), and related tort claims, with an emphasis on employment and labor matters. Her litigation experience, having worked on both sides of the fence, has served her well with respect to her ADR work. Ms. Keaton also is a registered Mediator who is paneled with multiple courts within the State of Georgia. Ms. Keaton also frequently makes presentations to such organizations such as the Georgia Association of Educators, the Georgia Local Government Personnel Association, and the Institute of City and County Attorneys. View all posts by Jennifer Keaton →

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