The Pros and Cons of a Pet-Friendly Workplace
While it’s not a legal entitlement, more and more businesses are allowing their employees to bring pets to work. The question is, is this a good idea? Animals in the workplace can mean all sorts mayhem, and will be a concern for people with allergies! But the benefits are obvious - who doesn’t want an adorable animal to fuss over while at work?
If your workplace is considering allowing pets to join you at work, we’ve outlined the pros and cons below!
Who Can Bring Pets to Work?
Technically, employees aren’t legally entitled to bring pets to work, though there are a few exceptions. In some cases, an animal that provides assistance for disabled employees will be allowed into the workplace. If you can argue that you need to bring a pet to work under the Equality Act 2010, your employer can’t refuse your request without facing claims for discrimination. Such animals may include a hearing dog, an assistance dog, or a seizure alert dog.
If your employer does have a policy that allows pets in the workplace, it’s important to read it carefully before bringing your pet in! Large dogs may not be permitted, for instance, and you’ll probably need to be confident that your pet is well behaved.
Can I Get Pawternity Leave?
At present, there’s no legal obligation for employers to allow you time off for pet-related issues. However, a business may be lenient should you need to care for a sick pet, take it to the vet, or in the event of the death of an animal. You may be expected to take unpaid leave though, or use one of your allocated holiday days.
One increasingly popular idea is offering ‘pawternity leave’ as a perk for employees. This may simply be a way to stand out from the competition, but it’s something to consider when applying for a new job.
Advantages of Pets in the Workplace
There are numerous benefits to having animals in the workplace. For example, bringing your pet to work will often reduce your stress levels, and be good for your overall mental health. The Mental Health Foundation furthermore argues that pets can boost your self confidence, and may be helpful for people with specific conditions like ADHD or autism.
Another advantage of allowing pets at work is that employees don’t have to travel home during their lunch break, to tend to their pet. This mostly applies to dogs, but all sorts of animals can need regular supervision!
For some employees, having a pet with them can even help them do their job. Someone patrolling a premises at night, for instance, may feel more secure with a dog by their side. Other people might be able to concentrate on their work better if they’re not worrying about their pet, and feel a greater sense of companionship with an animal beside them.
Disadvantages of Pets in the Workplace
One of the biggest concerns with allowing pets into the workplace is allergies. Between 10% and 20% of the population worldwide are allergic to cats, dogs, or both. And having itchy eyes or a runny nose will result in a rather unproductive workday.
As well as allergies, some people simply don’t like all animals, and may be afraid of them. If you’ve previously been bitten by a dog, you may find it difficult to come into work if there are several dogs roaming the office!
You should also think about how bringing your pet into the workplace affects the animal. Having their owner nearby, but not giving them any attention, can confuse and upset an animal. And if your pet is given lots of attention, that will mean little work gets done!
Another thing to consider is the liability of a pet injuring a member of staff. While it's more likely that the owner would have to accept liability, there is a risk that the pet-friendly policy, and therefore the employer, is blamed.
The Logistics of Bringing Pets to Work
Before opening your office doors to pets of all shapes and sizes, you should probably take the time to think about the logistics. The first thing you need to do is get agreement from your entire team regarding a pet-friendly office. This may mean having designated pet-free areas, for people who are less fond of animals.
Another consideration is whether you allow pets into the office every day of the week - it may be sensible to only have appointed days. And above all, you must ensure that your offices are safe for animals - go around and pet-proof any areas that seem a bit iffy!
Pet Friendly Policies
It may not be logistical to allow pets into the workplace, especially if you work in a less pet-friendly environment, such as a construction site. But that doesn’t mean you have to shut pets out entirely - you can instead introduce a few animal friendly policies and events.
Ideas include holding a picnic at a local dog park, working with an animal charity, or running pet photo competitions, with prizes for the pets themselves. Get creative with pet policies, and ask your staff to come up with fun ideas too!
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