Is an employee entitled to bereavement leave when a pet passes away? The short answer is ‘no!’ However, HR Team recommends that employers have a policy in place in relation to employees seeking bereavement leave when their beloved pet dies.
This should especially be the case in relation to companies that already allow workers to bring their pets to the workplace. In the UK, for example, around 8% of employees are allowed to take their dogs to work. Airbnb’s offices in Dublin is one of a few examples of ‘animal-friendly’ employers in Ireland.
Across the three jurisdictions in which HR Team operates – the UK, Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland – there is no law regarding leave for pet bereavement or illness.
Time off work for dependents
Employees on both sides of the Irish Sea are entitled to take ‘reasonable time off’ for dependents. This includes time for emergencies and unforeseen circumstances.
A dependent is described as a spouse, partner, child, grandchild, parent, or someone who depends on you for care.
Some employers will count employees’ cherished animals in this category. This is because pets are dependent on their owners for their day-to-day needs.
Taking time off for animal dependents would normally apply in situations where a pet is living but needs emergency care. However, this provision is not written into law.
In companies and organisations where a pet policy does not exist, HR Team recommends that employees apply for compassionate, or unpaid, leave in circumstances where their beloved animal is sick or passes away. It is always good practice to have a policy in place, especially where workers are allowed to bring their pets into the workplace.
Pet leave policy
However, employers must be careful. For example, how many pets can an employee apply to take leave for and what constitutes a pet – a goldfish or a hamster etc? Issues over animals can be both divisive and emotional. We also recommend that employers seek feedback from employees first, as a pet leave policy could only benefit 50 per cent, or less, of their workforce.
Leave for pet illness
Our advice is that employers should be compassionate when it comes to pet bereavement or illness. However, you should be careful that your policy is not open to abuse. If there is already a policy in place where employees can bring a pet to work, it could be extended to include animal-related leave.
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