Pawternity leave: time off to hang out with your pets?

It's a dilemma pet lovers everywhere have grappled with. Your daschund is the bees knees, your cat is the dog's boxers... and yet your workplace isn't yet 'progressive' enough to allow you paid leave to play with your four-legged friend. So in the absence of official pawternity leave, sneaky employees are taking a (cough, cough) 'sick day' off work in order to enjoy a little... pet leave.

But is pet leave really justified?

Many animal-loving employees would argue that it is, and it seems that some businesses are already inclined to agree. A number of big brands, including Mars Petcare and Brewdog, have specifically introduced pet-friendly policies which allow employees time off work to be with their pets. Whether to help employees, to leverage column inches or to build a stronger employer brand, this kind of PR-friendly policy is getting a fair bit of attention these days.

The case against pawternity leave

Realistically, the majority of employers will simply not be ready to offer paid pet leave. After all, paid time off work costs businesses - and surely a line has to be drawn somewhere?

There's also the old inclusivity problem. How are those without pets going to feel if a colleague gets to skive for a week to be with their pet?

And how do you decide on what's appropriate? A dog, maybe, but a snake? A hamster? An ant farm?

The case for pet leave

However, other firms will be interested in the wellbeing benefits that pets can provide, particularly in a climate where mental health concerns are important to people. Time spent with animals is shown to reduce blood pressure, boost mood and lower stress levels, and pet leave policies may ultimately result in happier, healthier and more productive employees.

Many workers also feel that pet-related work policies are inclusive - noting that some people will not have children and so miss out on parental leave. In fact, 82% of employees believe that employers should be offering time off for pet-related emergencies, such as vets appointments, illness or adoption.

Millennials - obviously - are now the demographic most likely to own a pet, and employers everywhere are trying to court the finest talent from this in-demand demographic. Pet-friendly policies could just be the thing that wins the war for talent, and attracts the bright and best to your company. And perhaps a nice shiba inu visitor to pat every now and then.

Passing fad or pet-focused future?

Whether pet leave is a passing fad or a new direction for modern business is yet to be seen. But if you run a business, you might want to think about being a top-notch boss and recognising the therapeutic and wellbeing benefits that pets offer. After all, pet ownership is rising across the world - not just in the UK - and now 66% of global consumers have a pet of some kind.

Consider too that work-related stress is costing businesses billions of pounds annually in lost productivity. A smart approach could result in happier and more productive workers - whilst gaining you positive PR, better quality candidates, and a healthier bottom line.

Tips for bosses: recognising your pet-loving employees

Rather than let your pet-owning peeps take some sneaky sick leave to be with their favourite feline, you could also being proactive and recognising the benefits of domestic animals. Here are some ideas:

  • Make your office-friendly to well-behaved dogs - even if it's for a 'bring your dog to work day' a month. Cats, as we know, just do their own thing, so maybe leave them at home.
  • Link up with a local animal rescue centre and instigate corporate volunteering time, so that your staff get time out of the office periodically to help out with the animal residents.
  • Encourage remote working, knowing your employees will throw a dog walk into their day.
  • Consider linking up a pet-friendly policy with an organisational health and wellbeing policy. Dog walks rack up steps on an app such as Sweatcoin, for example, which can be redeemed for discounts on wellbeing products.
  • Offer staff discounts on pet insurance and other pet products as part of their employee benefits packages.
  • Have some fun on the topic of pets! Talk about your pets at work, add a picture of your cat to your employee newsletter, sponsor a pet therapy charity, or install an aquarium into your office!

So what's your view on pawternity leave? Is it something that you could see your business offering in future? Or should it be swiftly forgotten about?