An Italian woman has won her battle to be granted sick pay for days she took off to look after her poorly dog…
Kate Palmer, Peninsula Head of Advisory gives her comments;
Although many people consider their pet to be an important member of their family, or even a dependant, they are not included within the statutory definition that entitles employees to unpaid time off work during emergencies. Other types of statutory leave, such as paid sick leave, are also not available to use for sick pets. The unavailability of statutory time off from work can leave pet owners stranded when trying to make arrangements to attend vet appointments or provide care for their sick pets.
Although there isn’t a legal entitlement to time off, most employers will be understanding and compassionate in these circumstances. Having a distracted employee whose mind is on their pet will not be beneficial to the business as the employee is likely to be less productive and at risk of making errors in their work. Various types of leave can be discussed with the employee, such as unpaid leave, short-notice holiday and time off in lieu. Amending hours to allow flexible start and end times, where the hours are made up in the future, can also be adopted to accommodate attendance at vet appointments.
There are companies who offer “pawternity” or “peternity” leave so employees can take time off work to settle a new pet in or visit the vets. This is a growing initiative and companies who find employees are often requiring time off for their pets may wish to introduce a similar policy to formalise the arrangements. The policy can include information such as whether this time off is paid or unpaid and whether there are any limits on time off, for example, a maximum number of days’ leave per year.
The difficult balance for many employers is to be understanding and flexible for those employees with ill animals, whilst not causing conflict with employees who don’t have family pets.
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