Should your workplace give you a day off after a break-up?

Francesca SpecterYahoo Style UK deputy editor
Should you get a day off work for a break-up? [Photo: Getty]
Should you get a day off work for a break-up? [Photo: Getty]

Break-ups are rarely easy, provoking emotional distress and often a lifestyle upheaval, too.

But does this warrant a day off work? A debate broke out on today’s ‘Good Morning Britain’ show, after matchmaker Lara Asprey said she was in favour of ‘break-up days’, reasoning that experiencing a relationship breakdown can affect an employee’s mental health and productivity.

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I do think you should be able to go to your doctor and say, ‘I cannot cope’, and the doctor can write you a note and write you off for as long as you need,” she said.

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However, journalist Sally Jones contested that break-ups are an “incredibly natural thing” which tend to occur several times during our lifetimes and shouldn’t be treated “like an illness”.

In a Twitter poll of ‘Good Morning Britain’ followers, just over a third (35.2%) were in favour of break-up days, while the rest fell into the “no” category.

Break-up days around the world

Elsewhere in the world, employers may take a more liberal attitude towards heartbreak.

In Germany, heartbreak is known as Liebeskummer – an ongoing state of sorrow, depression and suffering associated with lost love – and you can even get a doctor’s note for it to sign you off work, according to The Times.

Japanese employers have historically taken a similarly sympathetic view towards heartbreak.

Back in 2008, Tokyo-based market research company Hime & Co hit headlines after offering its employees “heartache leave”: one day for those in their early 20s, two days for those in their mid to late 20s and three days for those who are 30 and over.

But should we introduce the practice here in Britain? Here’s what the experts said.

Should we offer break-up days in the UK?

Lizzie Benton, founder and culture consultant at Liberty Mind, an organisation which helps UK-based companies improve their company culture, says she might endorse break-up days in some cases “depending on the severity of the break-up, and how emotionally affected the person is”.

She tells Yahoo UK:  “A break-up is often like a bereavement and can be incredibly life-changing. In some cases, people can become mentally unwell after a break-up, and this can all lead to them being unhappy at work. It should be down to the employer to make this decision on a case by case basis, but employees should be made to feel comfortable and safe enough in their roles to ask for such leave.”

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In terms of implementation, she suggests the policy could be added to an employee handbook, “which expresses the possibility of such leave in special circumstances.”

However, she expresses the need for employers to use a “measured approach” so that they are not taken advantage of, and the need for an existing trusting relationship between employee and employer before this policy is implemented.

“Only an organisation who truly trusts and supports their team would probably implement such a policy,” she adds.

Gerard Barnes, CEO of mental health treatment specialists Smart TMS, acknowledges the difficulties of introducing such a workplace policy.

“It is certainly easier for companies to not provide any kind of “heartache leave” - there are many who subscribe to the school of thought that work comes first and foremost, and the victim of a break-up should simply use work to take their mind off things and tough it out,” he tells Yahoo UK.

However, he also acknowledges there are “many more [employees] whose mental health and work performance will suffer if they are forced to work in such a compromised state.”

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Therefore, he considers “a policy of transparency and openness around any personal issues that can affect one’s working life” to be vital – particularly in matters of mental health.

“Whether a company chooses to offer dedicated “heartache leave”, include this as part of regular bereavement leave, or simply have no leave policy for heartbreak whatsoever, the most important thing is that managers and HR departments do not judge,” he adds.

“If an employee feels that they can be honest about their personal issues and not be reprimanded or treated differently at work as a result, this can only benefit both employer and employee.”

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