Employee wellbeing: Life events – Are you an employer of choice?

The business case for employers reviewing their strategy on employee support

DLA Piper’s Employment team is publishing a series of articles exploring the business case for employers reviewing their current approach to important life events which impact on employees in the workplace.

In this first article of the series, we consider the overarching rationale for employers taking a proactive approach in this space and suggest that now is the time for employers to comprehensively review their strategy and consider how best to ensure employees are appropriately supported at work. This is critical for existing employee relations as well as ensuring that businesses can recruit and retain the best talent going forward.

Most employers recognise that policies which promote the physical and mental health and wellbeing of their workforce are essential to ensuring a supportive and inclusive working environment. Such policies may be implemented for a range of reasons: to meet statutory obligations, to ensure that matters which arise in the workplace are dealt with in a fair and consistent manner and, increasingly, to pave the way for positive progress and to promote best practice. Policies that look to support employees during life events, such as menopause, fertility treatment, miscarriage or when an employee suffers domestic abuse, whilst not mandatory, are becoming increasingly relevant and important for businesses who aspire to take a best practice approach and lead the market.

COVID-19 pandemic

The past two years have been a challenging time for both employers and employees. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in unforeseen and ongoing uncertainty, both from a health and an economic perspective, and forced employers to adapt in unprecedented ways. As we emerge from this period and businesses focus on rebuilding, the battle for talent has begun.

The impact the pandemic has had on the mental health of many people has also brought the issue of employee health and wellbeing to light as a key priority for many employers. Whilst the world may be recovering, the COVID-19 pandemic has left a lasting impact both inside and outside the workplace. Employees are now much more conscious about their health and wellbeing and are likely to want their work environment to reflect this. We envisage that employees will, more than ever, look to employers to have in place policies and practices which aim to preserve and improve their wellbeing and which recognise, in a compassionate manner, that difficult events occur in many people’s lives from time to time.

Social movements and equity in the workplace

In recent years, there have been a number of global movements which capture the zeitgeist of social change, including within the workplace. Employees are increasingly favouring employers who implement socially progressive policies. Clients and investors are also looking for partners who align with their values and environmental, social and governance (ESG) measures are becoming an important consideration in those decision-making processes.

In response to this, businesses are already implementing policies and practices which are not only aimed at improving equality in the workplace, but which also strive to achieve equity.  This includes more widespread recognition that individuals may be affected by unique health and wellbeing challenges, which require informed and, often, bespoke responses from an employer. Implementing life event polices is a great example of a business recognising this and taking an equitable approach.

Nominal or no financial cost

In many cases, implementing life event policies will not result in significant additional costs to the business beyond a nominal sum relating to the formulation and introduction of the policy.  However the positive impact of implementing these policies on a business’ workforce and future workforce can be significant.

No longer only gold standard practice

A number of businesses have already implemented such policies.  It may even be the case that a business’ competitors are already one step ahead and have these policies fully engrained within their business.  We envisage that in the near future such policies and procedures will become standard practice in the workplace and employees will expect that these are in place when choosing a new workplace. As such, a delay or failure to implement such policies is likely to deter the best talent.

It’s the right thing to do

Most individuals will be affected by at least one important life event in their lifetimes. As an example, it is reported that one in eight pregnancies ends in miscarriage (estimated to be one in five taking into account unreported miscarriages)[1] with the mother and their partner both likely to suffer the mental health effects of such loss. The introduction of practices and policies such as miscarriage leave may not be a statutory requirement, and may indeed result in some additional cost to the business; however being a good employer will often require going above and beyond a tick box exercise.  It is showing your people that they are important and that you, as their employer, care about their wellbeing.

One of the key takeaways from the pandemic is that looking after our health and each other is an important and right thing to do.  This, in itself, may be the most significant impetus for the introduction of life event policies.

The remaining articles in our Employee Wellbeing series will be published over coming weeks, taking a look at:

  • The menopause: A business critical issue for employers;
  • Supporting employees through baby loss and neonatal treatment;
  • Supporting employees undergoing fertility treatment;
  • Domestic abuse: Providing support and empowering employees.

In the meantime, DLA Piper’s Employment team can advise you on your business’ approach to life events impacting employees in the workplace, including assisting with implementation of policies and providing training to your staff. For further information, please speak to your usual DLA Piper contact or email employment@dlapiper.com.

You may also wish to fully review your organisation’s diversity and inclusion strategy, and your compliance with legal obligations, by completing the DLA Piper Diversity and Inclusion Index.



[1] https://www.tommys.org/baby-loss-support/pregnancy-loss-statistics