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Family breakdown and divorce directly costs companies in absenteeism and higher turnover expenses, and indirectly supporting less motivated and less healthy employees

Whilst Australia has seen a declining rate of marriage since 1947 – similar to other western nations – today more than 70% of women will marry in their lifetime, 1 in 5 marrying at least twice; with 4 in 5 couples living together before marriage (an increase from less than 1 in 5 in 1975). Lasting an average of 12 years, 1 in 3 of these relationships will end in divorce, most occurring in the primary producing years, around 45 for men and 43 for women in 2016 (ABS, 2016).

There is a significant impost on society and the impact on children and on government funding of supporting families in crisis is significant. In Kevin Andrews book ‘Maybe I do’, he claims that >$3 billion p.a. was spent on social security benefits associated with family breakdown in the 1990’s (Andrews, 2012). That figure is a lot larger today. In the UK, the cost to the economy of family breakdown in 2015 was estimated at £47 billion [or AUD$86 billion] (Ashcroft, J. 2015).

In understanding the effects of family breakdown and divorce on businesses, it is useful to understand that relationships are dynamic, that relationships are constantly progressing toward happy satisfying marriages, or regressing toward employees failing in their relationships and spiraling downward in dissatisfying relationships that often end in separation and divorce.

For the employee and for businesses, research suggests that happy employees increase profitability and have the potential through strengthened relationships at home and with business partners to accelerate business growth (Turvey et al, 2006). Additionally, research suggests that family role commitment is beneficial to managers, strengthening their leadership skills and overall well-being (e.g., Ruderman et al., 2002).

However, when relationships go wrong, these workers directly cost companies in absenteeism and higher turnover expenditures, and indirectly supporting less motivated and less healthy employees and through the societal effects of broken couple families. In Australia, research indicates divorce costs taxpayers an estimated ~$14 billion in federal and state expenditures annually (Andrews, 2012).

As the line between work and play continues to blur, employers are investing in wellbeing programs as both a social responsibility and a talent strategy. Leading companies are developing strategies that address societal concerns such as longevity and wellbeing – and doing so in ways that help improve productivity and performance.

If relationships are integral to all aspects of a fulfilled life – from exploring communication and conflict, to developing parenting skills, through to improving relationships and effectively communicating with family, friends, colleagues and business partners –  then it is in the interest of every organisation to assist employees to strengthen and build strong relationship skills.

Tune in next week to understand how the Value of Healthy Couple Families to Business.


    Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 2016: Marriage and divorces, Australia
    Andrews, K, 2012: Maybe ‘I Do’: Modern Marriage & the Pursuit of Happiness
    Ashcroft, J., (2015), Research note : 23 November 2015
    Ruderman, M. N., Ohlott, P. J., Panzer, S., & King, S. N., 2002: Benefits of multiple roles for managerial women. Academy of Management Journal, 45, 369 –386.
    Turvey, M. D., & Olson, D. H., 2006: Marriage & Family Wellness: Corporate America’s Business? A Marriage CoMission Research Report. Minneapolis, MN

Marriage and Relationship Education is a learning opportunity, much like you would do in any other important life event. Check out the video for couples on YouTube: Keep up with the latest from the MAREAA online:

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