I am going through a divorce or separation should I tell my employer?

Separation or divorce is often cited as the most difficult and testing times of anyone’s life. So in short our advice is to, yes, tell your employer if you are experiencing this, even in the event you have chosen to end the relationship.

Why?

Firstly, you may even be obliged to tell your employer from the mere fact you are required to inform the company or organisation of a change of address or circumstances. It might be stated in your contract of employment or the employee handbook that this is an obligation. But more importantly, to make them aware of the fact that your personal circumstances, even if you think you will be able to continue at work as normal, is difficult at the present time.

Certainly, you may even find that work becomes a bit of a sanctuary; a place to continue on as normal and stop your mind focussing on your personal troubles. However, life changing events naturally challenge a person’s mental and even sometimes physical health and divorce and separation certainly is a life changing event.

Bear in mind on top of the normal responsibilities you are having to contend with the practical thoughts of;

  • Legal rights, in particular if you have  a child or children, but also in terms of property and finance.
  • Money; any shared accounts or savings, how you are going to live and pay rent or mortgage day-to-day, who is responsible for the bills- is there enough trust between you and your ex for this to be managed amicably?
  • Your status or change of name. Sometimes just ticking the ‘divorced’ or ‘separated’ box on an innocent form can bring deep feelings of regret, failure, shame and disappointment. All natural feelings because certainly no one sets out to get divorced or separated.

All of these additional worries can lead to an incredible stressful time and letting your manager know what you are going through can often help at work. Especially if you need to get to a solicitors or counselling session, or pick your kids up outside of your normal routine. Although it’s often hard to admit that on top of all of this you are worried that people will judge you for a failed relationship…. what will friends and colleagues think? Hopefully you will find that most managers will be incredibly sympathetic, will be obliged to maintain your confidence on the issue but also might be able to offer you additional support. Many employers have packages that offer phone counselling which is anonymous and give great support and advice on your legal rights and mental health. You might even find in sharing your circumstances that your manager shares personal experiences or knows of a good solicitor to recommend.

Remember in your darkest moments you are not alone. You certainly aren’t the first to go through separation or divorce and you won’t be the last. There is a wealth of resources available in the links below. However, we would encourage you that if you feel you can, to disclose your situation to your employer to ensure they have a better understanding of any absence related to sickness or extra-ordinary appointments and the flexibility you might require in the short to medium term. If you don’t feel you can trust your manager, consider any HR support in the organisation or perhaps the office manager?? Failing that speak to a Director or more senior manager. You may be very surprised by the support they are willing to offer.

Good luck and chin up!