What responsibilities does HR have when an employee is getting divorced?


Many employers assume it isn’t their place to get involved when one of their workers is going through a divorce, but there are a few things the HR department will need to consider.

If you are going through a separation, it’s worth letting HR know so they can be aware of your situation. Here are just some of the things HR may need to be aware of:

1.   Change of address

It’s often helpful for HR to have up-to-date information for every employee. A divorce can often mean a change of address, so the worker may need to provide updated details. HR often needs to update the tax man of a worker’s change of details, so it could even be in the worker’s contract that they have to provide up-to-date information.

2.   Change of name

A divorce can also mean a change of name for some people. It’s common for companies to keep a copy of the worker’s ID to verify their right to work in the UK. If their name has changed, they may need to update their ID and provide another copy.

3.   Banking changes

If the worker’s wages were previously going into a joint bank account, this will need to change following the divorce. While it is down to workers to ensure their banking information is correct, it may be helpful for HR to prompt this change of details.

4.   Tax changes

The individual’s tax position may change after a divorce, so it’s important for HR to make sure the worker knows how this will affect their finances. Married couples enjoy significant tax benefits, so a change in marital status can have a big impact on their disposable income.

5.   Pension changes

A change in finances may lead an individual to think about their future. In particular, their pension. A worker may decide to increase their pension contributions to make the most of potential tax savings. They could also want to temporarily decrease their voluntary contributions to help ease their financial burden during the difficult transition time. Helping the individual to understand their options is one of the best things an HR professional can do.

6.   Childcare changes

While childcare may have been split evenly before, the worker may now have changed priorities. This may mean they need to request flexible working in order to be able to make school drop off and pick up times. The worker may also want to explore working from home a few days a week to make this transition easier.

According to Major Family Law, every worker who has been employed for at least 26 weeks is eligible to make a statutory request and this will have to be taken seriously by the employer.

7.   Extended leave of absence

Going through a divorce can turn an individual’s life upside down.  They may wish to make a request to take an extended leave of absence from work in order to get their affairs in order. They may need to help their children settle into a new school, move house, or simply cope with the emotional trauma of divorce.

If any of their requests are not taken seriously, there is a good chance the worker will simply quit their job and look for another job when they are ready. In this instance, it is the HR professional’s responsibility to let the worker know they are valued and that the company will do everything possible to accommodate their requests.

8.   Offer support

Individuals may be reluctant to share details of their divorce with those they work with out of fear their professional performance may be called into question. In this instance, it’s important to let the worker know they are valued and the employer will stand by them while they go through this big life change.