When a new baby arrives, it’s a given that new parents are going to have their hands full and thus, employers allow time off to deal with that stuff and stabilize the homestead. And perhaps some of you are asking, but what about new pets? Shouldn’t there be something in there for new pet parents?
Pet-friendly employer policies are a trend, according to Steven Feldman, executive director at Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) in Washington, D.C. HABRI conducts research into the health benefits of having pets.
“Over the last five years we’ve seen this [trend] increase,” Feldman said. “Millennials are getting pets as their ‘starter kits.’ A lot of Millennials, before they have children, often end up with feline or canine children as a way to start [parenting].” In fact, Millennials are the primary pet-owning generation, slightly edging out Baby Boomers (35 percent and 32 percent, respectively), according to the American Pet Products Association.
“Those [pets] are just as much a part of their families as human kids will be later on. They’re looking for … acknowledgement [from employers] of the important role of pets in their lives.”
That acknowledgement can take different forms. Organizations that don’t allow pets in the workplace may still offer pet-supportive benefits—pet health insurance, pet bereavement leave, time off to take a pet to the vet—that “signal you’re looking at the employee’s entire family,” Feldman said. “These are all things that show you care.”
That can translate into engagement and retention. 90 percent of employees in pet-friendly workplaces feel highly connected to their company’s mission, fully engaged in their work and willing to recommend their organization to others, according to a survey of 2,002 full-time workers in the U.S. HABRI and Nationwide, a health insurance provider headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, conducted the online survey in December.
Marie Larsen, SHRM-CP, office manager and HR generalist at Searls Windows and Doors Inc. in Plainfield, Ill., said her employer does not offer pawternity or pet bereavement leave, but it would support an employee who wanted to use PTO for pet care or time to mourn. However, while Searls would allow an employee whose pet had died to take the day off unpaid if that employee had no PTO left to use, Larsen said she would struggle to recommend offering specific pet bereavement or other pet-related time off.
“Having specific days for pet care or pet grieving leaves a company wide open for problems. Having a general policy that allows employees with pets to utilize their standard PTO for furry family members might be a better overall approach,” she said.
Creating a pet-friendly office takes some thought and there are a ton of questions including: what constitutes a pet?, how much time off should they get? What if the employee has no pets? How do you provide similar benefits to prevent employees from claiming discrimination?
Hey, ruling your world means knowing about the trends and how your company will respond to them BEFORE they become issues and we can help you do that. Is it a weird benefit? Sure, but something like this could pay dividends in terms of employee retention and overall happiness. My team of employee benefits and health insurance experts can answer your questions and tell you all about the pet care discount plans offered by some providers help you turn this trend into your company’s favorite “pet” project!
‘Pawternity’ Leave Acknowledges Pet Owners’ Needs