7th February 2024
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Advertising industry signs up for divorce support wellbeing initiative

The UK’s leading advertising agencies have committed to a new initiative to support staff who are going through separation, as a new survey reveals the major impact a family breakdown can have on an employee’s performance. 

Backed by the Institute of the Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) and the Marketing Society and supported by behavioural economist, Rory Sutherland, the initiative has seen the likes of McCann London, Analog Folk, Goodstuff, Leagas Delaney and Organic join the initiative alongside major UK employers, including Asda, Metrobank, NatWest, PwC, Tesco, Unilever, and Vodafone.

The first wave of employers to sign up to the initiative have welcomed working with the Positive Parenting Alliance (PPA) to incorporate more family-friendly HR policies for staff going through a divorce or separation in the family home, such as recognising separation as a ‘life event’ and signposting details of available support. 

The move comes after a survey from the PPA, a group of UK organisations and individuals whose aim is to create a more compassionate culture, and better systems in the UK to ensure the long-term wellbeing of children when parents separate, found that 90% of respondents said that their work performance was impacted when they went through a divorce, and 95% reported that their mental health at work suffered.

This is the PPA’s second major initiative to help change the culture of separation in the UK after launching the ‘Parents Promise’ in May 2021.

More than 74% admitted that they were less efficient at work and over 39% felt they had to take time off work as a result of their separation. Over 12% stopped work altogether. 

The survey of over 200 employees across a range of businesses also showed:

·       52% said that as a result of their separation they felt they might lose their job or thought about voluntarily leaving

·       Just 9% said their employer had specific policies or support for employees going through separation or divorce.

Sophie Devonshire, Chief Executive of the Marketing Society, said: “This is such a smart and simple way for organisations to help employees. Dealing with the impact on families after marital breakdown is challenging and this is a change which can make a big difference. It’s brilliant to see James Hayhurst, a member of The Marketing Society, championing this critical initiative and we’d love to encourage all organisations to get behind this to help their people.”

James Hayhurst, founder of the Positive Parenting Alliance said: “We want to change the culture of separation in the UK, and employers can play a critical first step in offering support, signposting and role-modelling how separation can be handled in a more positive way for the benefit of all parties involved.”

“Currently few employers recognise or accommodate for employees going through a divorce or separation, even though it affects large numbers annually, and is a huge strain on an individual’s mental health. Often, children are involved and impacted negatively by a family breakdown, and yet divorce is not formally incorporated into HR policies. 

“The survey findings are a wake-up call for UK businesses which is why the fact that some of the country’s biggest employers have agreed to make the positive commitment to improving their HR policies is such a major step in employee benefits and wellbeing.”

Behavioural Economist Rory Sutherland said: “In terms of effecting large-scale cultural change in how the UK supports family separation, it makes sense for employers, large and small, to embrace this initiative. There is a big difference between decisions made in a hot state compared to those made with more composure, and hence the moment and mindset in which such separations are decided could make all the difference to whether an employee is able to cope, and to remain in their role or not.”

To raise awareness of the issue, the Positive Parenting Alliance launched a campaign in Parliament on 26 January. Joined by Siobhan Baillie MP and Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Court Division, it called on other businesses and HR leaders to better support employees going through separation by implementing a number of HR initiatives, including: 

·       Recognising separation as a ‘life event’ in HR policy so that those experiencing separation feel recognised and realise that they can access support. 

·       Ensuring parents going through a separation have access to flexible working to enable them to manage school and childcare pick-ups and drop-offs whilst they reconfigure their family setups. 

·       Giving employees access to, and pointing them towards, emotional counselling during this period. 

·       Signposting and access to separation support services so that parents can have the guidance and support that they need to separate in the most compassionate and child-focused way. 

Businesses signing up to this new initiative will be provided with guidance and signposting support from the PPA for their employees.

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