By Dr. Becker
Adding a new pet to the family just got a little easier for some workers in the U.K. who are now able to take time off, with pay, for personal business related to bringing home a new pet.
In fact, more U.K. companies are providing the new policy for their employees. U.K.-based Petplan, the largest pet insurance provider in the world, says nearly one in 20 workers have been granted the opportunity to take advantage of the new benefit, called "pawternity leave."
The original arrangement was called "pupternity," according to Petplan's website, devised more for dogs than other animals, such as cats, asserting that pups need more attention than kittens, who are generally independent and flexible, even in the earliest stages of joining a new household.
"One third of pet owners are of the same opinion that puppies take longest to get used to their new surroundings and overall, new dog owners take an average of six days off work, compared to new cat owners who take just half that."1
A Petplan representative, Isabella von Mesterhazy noted:
"The rise in new pet owners taking pupternity leave indicates that people recognize the importance of settling in new pets with the right support and care. The early days of a kitten or puppy's life are a vital part of the pet's early development — especially for them to become a proper part of the family."2
Mars Petcare, which employs more than 33,000 associates in 199 locations around the world,3 has provided a policy in which employees can get 10 hours of paid leave when they have a new pet settling in.
Not Just Pet-Related Companies Offer Pawternity
As its name suggests, Mars Petcare is mostly dedicated to pets, but other companies, such as another U.K.-based company, BitSol Solutions, which offers tech support, also offer time off for pet-related issues. Its workers can take as many as three weeks off when adding a new pet to their household.
BitSol Solutions owner Greg Buchanan opted to offer the pawternity option to his employees when his partner took nine months off work to settle matters involving the couple's own two dogs: He said in USA Today:
"We got a puppy from a rescue home and we realized it needed to be looked after properly, so I took a week off to ensure it was welcomed into the home, and to set boundaries for the dogs. You know, 'You can't chew the couch' and 'You can't jump on the television,' things like that."4
Buchanan said his dog was better for it.
"Pets are like babies nowadays so why shouldn't staff have some time off when they arrive? The first few weeks of a dog moving to a new home is a really important time, especially (with) puppies.
I don't have kids myself but I do have dogs and I understand how much they mean to people."
He told USA Today that 60 percent of people in the U.K. have a pet of some kind and added:
"You know, we are quite sympathetic to pets in the U.K., we're a pet-loving country."5
Reasons to Institute a Pawternity Policy
Company directors who set up policies such as pawternity usually do so because they empathize with their employees, and that goes a long way toward fostering trust. An engineer at BitSol Solutions, for example, took four days off work to deal with a dog he'd adopted from a relative who passed away. Buchanan noted:
"Dogs suffer quite a bit with separation anxiety and putting it into a new environment definitely affects it, so that dog needed to be integrated into a new home."
Obviously we take it on a case-by-case decision. If somebody's asking for time off for a goldfish, no, no — then it's not quite what we set out for."
Both employers and the people who work for them agree that establishing pet-related policies helps improve morale at work, as Buchanan observed:
"If you do give time off for paw-ternity leave, you are limiting the number of people available to you; however, I believe the morale of staff definitely improves and they actually want to work harder for you."
Pet-Related Benefits Offered by US Companies
While there are no companies (yet) in the U.S. offering pawternity leave, a few have agreed to other benefits that convey understanding toward their employees with pets and the responsibilities that entails.
Rover, a company that connects pet parents with local dog sitters, gives its employees time off with pay for bereavement when a pet passes, and Bomber Industries gives its workers time off to deal with sick pets.6 A New York Post article noted:
"Many pet experts agree that new pet owners should try their best to clear their schedule for the first few days following a new animal's arrival.
Not only can pets benefit from the comfort of being cared for by a loving parent after spending time in an animal shelter, but they require attention to be properly housebroken and trained so they don't become a public nuisance.
It's clear that spending time with your fur-baby is in the pet's best interest — but it's in your employer's, too. According to Psychology Today, pet owners have better self-esteem, fitness, sociability and happiness than non-pet owners. They also have lower blood pressure and cholesterol."7