Employees’ Legal Issues Take Toll on Productivity

By SHRM Online staff Mar 30, 2011

Personal legal matters—such as will preparation, traffic tickets, real estate issues, debt problems and family situations like adoption and divorce—are common occurrences that can take a toll on workplace productivity. A new study, The Impact of Legal Matters on Today's Work Force, found that people facing these types of legal issues spend, on average, close to three hours a week at work dealing with their situation for an average duration of five to six weeks.

Moreover, 37 percent of men and 47 percent of women said dealing with a legal issue hurt their physical or emotional health.

The survey was conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Hyatt Legal Plans, a MetLife company that is a provider of group legal plans.

Easier with an Attorney

The study found that while some employees choose to handle a legal issue on their own, because they felt confident in their ability or because the cost of an attorney was a concern, having legal advice can improve someone’s experience. For example:

70 percent of employees who engaged an attorney said that having legal counsel made them feel more confident and that the issue was easier to resolve.

About two-thirds using a lawyer said that having an attorney gave them peace of mind.

Those who were enrolled in a group legal plan and used a network attorney felt more positively about their overall experience than those hiring an independent attorney or those going it alone.

“While some people feel confident serving as their own attorney, others do it simply because they are afraid of potential costs. However, there is also an emotional cost to going it alone,” said Bill Brooks, CEO of Hyatt Legal Plans, in making the case for this benefit. “Often for less than $20 a month, group legal plansprovide unlimited consultation with an attorney on employees’ most frequent personal legal issues,” he pointed out.

Saving Vacation Days

The convenience of having group legal plans as a workplace benefit can not only save money but also time, Brooks contended. For instance, the Hyatt Legal Plans study found that:

Only 30 percent of employees accessing their attorney through a group legal plan used vacation or other paid time off addressing their situation vs. nearly 50 percent of employees hiring an attorney on their own.

90 percent of employees who used a group legal plan said they would use it again in the future.

42 percent of people who were satisfied serving as their own attorney said they would be interested in enrolling in a group legal plan if given the option.

“Developing a professional rapport with an attorney is just as important as building a relationship with a family doctor or dentist,” added Brooks. “Having a plan available through work helps employees save time and money while providing peace of mind in knowing that prequalified attorneys will take care of them,” he said.

The survey was conducted Jan. 6-Feb. 7, 2011, among 846 employed U.S. residents age 18 and older who have had at least one targeted legal issue in the past five years (e.g., foreclosure, adoption, bankruptcy, divorce).

Related Articles:

Group Legal Plans Help with Personal Financial Challenges, SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, September 2009

Group Legal Plans: value for a Diverse Workforce, SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, October 2008

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