‘Pet-ternity Leave’?

George Heron

George Heron

Email Click to email
Phone 01952 566918

4 May 2016

It is estimated that, in the UK today, 46% of households have a pet and the ‘pet population’ is approaching 60 million. The UK is proud of its reputation as a ‘nation of animal lovers’ and many of our pets are treated as additional members of the family. Unfortunately, as with humans, pets can get ill and pets can die. This creates practical and emotional difficulties for pet owners, and this will in all likelihood include some of your staff.

Unlike human dependants, there is no statutory right to take time off to deal with emergencies involving animals. The only exception to this is animals, such as guide dogs, which are necessary for an employee to attend work. Therefore, how you deal with requests of this nature is something that is at your discretion – your employees are not able to insist that they have time off, paid or otherwise. However, care should be exercised when point-blank refusing to accommodate these requests as there is a risk employees will simply phone in sick.

A possible compromise is to treat requests of this nature the same way you’d treat other ‘domestic emergencies’ that don’t involve a dependant – such as a broken boiler or a domestic flood. You could allow the employee to use some of their holiday allowance (and may agree, at your discretion, to waive the usual holiday notice requirements) or you could allow unpaid time off.

At Alpha, we have a vast experience in providing bespoke, practical advice on HR and employment law issues. We are proud of our commercial outlook and do not sit on the fence. If you would like to have Alpha on your side, please feel free to contact us.

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