Should You Give An Employee Time Off When Their Pet Dies?
From Pawternity Leave to dog-friendly offices, more and more employers have been recognising the importance that our pets play in our day to day lives.
Whilst it’s not a statutory requirement, most companies offer compassionate leave when an employer experiences the loss of a friend or family member, but there has been a recent debate surrounding whether this should extend to the loss of a pet.
Though employers may not agree whether the death of a pet should automatically qualify someone for time off, how should you handle an employee who is going through a pet bereavement and requests time off?
If you’re not a “pet-person”, it can be hard to understand why they feel like they can’t attend work, but it’s important to consider the circumstances. Grief, whether it’s for a person or a pet, effects everyone differently. Some people may not need any time at all, some people may need a few hours to handle vet visits, and some may have a very strong emotional reaction.
Start by assessing their emotional state before confirming any decisions. From a management perspective, it can be difficult to re-organise delegation at the last minute but if you ask an employee to come in when they are not in the right frame of mind, you should consider whether there is sufficient value to them being at work. Not only will their level of productivity be affected if they are emotional, but there is also potential to damage the productivity and morale of the employees around them.
You may also want to weigh up the potential for long term benefits like the “more than a number” effect… employees who feel they are treated well and are “more than a number” to their employers are more likely to perform better and show increased loyalty to the company, reducing turnover. If you are unable to give them the day off, perhaps an earlier finish time or ensuring they can take regular breaks if they need to would help.
On the other hand, though it’s important to be compassionate, you should also consider what is “reasonable” and take into account business needs. Whether this is allowing them to take time off but requesting this is done with annual leave or placing restrictions of the amount of time they can take, ensure this is applied consistently and fairly. It might be prudent to come up with a maximum amount of leave that can be used for when employees are experiencing emotional difficulties across the board.
Whether you can put yourself in their shoes or not, displaying compassion can go a long way in maintaining employee-employer relationships. Try not to belittle or minimise the way they feel and think of the way you would want to be supported if you were experiencing a difficult time.
And finally, ensure you maintain confidentiality. Though you may potentially see their disclosure as less serious, sharing personal information without consent can irreparably damage your working relationship with the employee and also potentially constitute a breach of data protection regulations.