Clocking Into Work and Clocking Out of Marriage? Shift Work and Divorce 

Published on 04 September, 2017 | Claire Reid

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One piece of advice commonly offered to staff in a wide range of businesses is “not to take your work home with you”.

The guidance is intended to prevent individuals whose office hours might be filled with relatively stressful tasks not being entirely able to switch off when they clock out and head back to their families.

Of course, it’s often easier said than done. As I’ve been telling the Sunday Telegraph’s Social Affairs Correspondent, Olivia Rudgard (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/09/02/shift-work-infidelity-ending-marriages/), it’s particularly difficult to separate the two when the work itself isn’t responsible for domestic divisions but a spouse’s behaviour with other employees is.

Over the last few years, myself and my fellow lawyers at Hall Brown Family Law have noticed a marked increase in the number of divorces which features disputes about shift work.

In 80 per cent of those cases, we find ourselves not only confronted by suggestions that someone is spending too many hours at work but allegations of infidelity.

Furthermore, the vast majority of those instances involve claims that a husband or wife has had extra-marital relations with a colleague.

If one spouse is working while the other is staying at home to raise a family, they have to be careful not to effectively allow separate lives to develop, the kind of divergence which creates its own strain

What is surprising is the degree to which workplace relationships have become a factor in marital collapse.

Sometimes, such attraction is a by-product of existing problems at home and can intensify whatever difficulties there are, pushing them beyond the point of no return.

In other examples, though, this sort of illicit partnership is the start point for a division between a husband and wife.

What is also especially eye-catching is the frequency with which certain jobs – police, fire and health services and in factories – crop up in our caseload in connection with allegations of shift-work affairs.

We need, of course, to look at why. Last October, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) reported that the number of people in the UK working night shifts had risen by 275,000 since 2011.

That same study concluded that individuals in their mid-40s were most likely to be asked to work night shifts and that is precisely the same age group which accounts for the biggest proportion of divorces in England and Wales.

Some of the increase in shift work might be due to the continued economic pressures which many couples are exposed to.

Whatever the ultimate motive, it is a fact that finding comfort with a colleague while working unsociable hours does not ease the stress of dealing with financial pressures but, in fact, can actually contribute to them and lead to divorce.

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