What Do You Think About Paid Leave for a Sick Pet?!

An article in the New York Times recently told of a woman who works at Sapienza University in Rome who asked for paid time off because her 12-year-old English setter needed surgery. “My dogs are my family, I had to be there for her,” she argued, when she was docked vacation time. With the intervention of an Italian animal advocacy group, the woman’s employer changed its mind and gave her paid leave to care for the dog instead.

Could Paid Leave for Pets Happen Elsewhere?

The New York Times article reported that paid leave for new pet owners, or those who need to care for ailing pets, has become part of some companies’ benefits programs. The Scottish company Brewdog allows one-week paid leave for employees who adopt a puppy. Several American companies offer bereavement days off when an employee’s pet dies, like the Seattle-based pet insurance company Trupanion, which gives a paid day off for pet loss as part of its benefits package.

What Do American Companies Offer?

ABC News did a piece on paid leave and pet needs and found that in addition to Trupanion, the pet-friendly Kimpton Hotel company offers paid pet leave for up to three days, for both salaried and hourly employees. While many companies don’t specifically have a pet bereavement policy, they do offer alternative ways for employees to manage mourning the loss of a pet. ABC News found that the software company VMware allows salaried employees to take days off to “unwind, unplug, and take care of themselves and their loved ones,” which can be used for pet loss. Mars Incorporated, which owns the pet nutrition company Mars Petcare, offers a paid day off for those who have lost a pet: the company told ABC News that they also selectively offer “pet-ernity leaves” for those who have added a new pet to their family. Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream company was quoted as saying that although the company doesn’t have an official policy, “if an employee needed a few days off for bereavement, it would be granted.” The same is true for the cloud computing company, Salesforce.

A Global Elevation of the Status of Pets

Many of us take for granted the emotional importance of the pets in our lives, and the world at large is catching up with our personal experience. There is growing awareness of the importance of pets in society, with ongoing worldwide studies about the emotional and intellectual abilities of dogs and cats and the value of our relationships with them. Now this topic of paid time off around the issue of pets is a real game changer. The power of that relationship becomes truly validated when you get down to the financial nitty-gritty of companies that are forfeiting productive work days for their employees — and in addition paying them for that lost time — so they can be with a pet or mourn his loss. Let’s be grateful that pets have reached a new high in the eyes of societies around the world — officially acknowledging what we’ve all felt for such a long time.

—Tracie Hotchner

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photo credit: jonix_k Sweet Dreams – 2016.06.23.F01 via photopin (license)