Pets have become an important part of many peoples’ lives – even more so since the pandemic. As a result, companies are starting to offer pawternity leave as a perk to employees.

Animal-loving employees are starting to ask for it, and it seems that some businesses are already embracing it. 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 it’s to help employees, leverage column inches, or build a stronger employer brand, this kind of PR-friendly policy is getting a fair bit of attention these days.

But what is pawternity leave? Should your company be offering it? And is pet leave really justified? Here’s the Timetastic take on this growing workplace trend.

What is pawternity leave?

Pawternity leave, also known as pet leave, is when an employee is granted time off work for reasons related to their pet. It’s a pun based on ‘paternity leave’, but for creatures with paws (or scales, hooves, tentacles... you get the picture.)

Reasons someone might want pet-related time off include:

  • Adopting a new pet. If you recently adopted a new puppy and want to take the time to bond with them and get them settled into their new home, pawternity leave can be a great way to do it.
  • Dealing with an unwell pet. This might include taking them to the vet, or just spending time with them at home as you nurse them back to health.
  • Bereavement leave. If your pet passes away, there’ll be a good chance you’re too upset to work. This is essentially the same as compassionate leave.

The case for pawternity leave

Here are some of the reasons you might consider having pet leave as an official work perk.

People take time off for their pets anyway.

It's a dilemma pet owners 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 'sick day' off work in order to enjoy a little pet leave.

If they’re going to stay home to feed a poorly Tiddles their Whiskas with or without your blessing, why not make it official?

Pets are great for wellbeing.

Some firms will recognise the wellbeing benefits that a furry friend can provide – particularly at a time when mental health concerns are a high priority. 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.

It’s more inclusive.

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.

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 opposite inclusivity problem. How are those without pets going to feel if a colleague gets to skive for a week to be with their new dog?

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

Having ‘furternity leave’ as one of your employee perks may well open up a whole can of worms when it comes to keeping things fair for everyone.

A passing fad or a pet-focused future?

Whether pet leave is a passing trend 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, and 62% of UK households now have a pet.

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 furry family members, you could also be proactive and recognise the benefits of domestic animals.

Here are some ideas for building a pet-friendly business:

  • Make your office-friendly to well-behaved dogs - even if it's for a 'bring your dog to work day' a month. (You’ll have to make a code of conduct to ensure people aren’t disturbed by barking and so on.)
  • Link up with a local animal rescue centre and offer volunteering leave, so that your staff get time out of the office periodically to help out with the animal residents.
  • Consider linking up a pet-friendly policy with an organisational health and wellbeing policy. Walking a dog will earn you steps on the Sweatcoin app, for example, which can be redeemed for discounts on various products.
  • Offer staff discounts on pet insurance, pet food 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?