The loss of a pet is a deeply painful experience for animal lovers. An employer who gives them time to grieve can win their loyalty and improve morale and productivity.
Over two-thirds of Americans own at least one pet, and most say that their pet is an important part of their family. According to a recent Harris Poll survey, 89% of pet owners said they got much comfort from their animal during the pandemic. So it’s not surprising that people suffer when they lose a pet and want time off to grieve.
At a time when employers are competing for workers, offering a pet bereavement policy may help attract animal lovers. At the same time, having a formal policy sets a standard that tells employees you recognize how important their pets are and respect their need for self-care.
Currently, there isn’t any legal requirement for employers to allow workers time off from work for pet bereavement. In some cases, employees aren’t even eligible to take unpaid time off when a pet dies. However, a growing number of organizations are instituting or considering a formal policy.
A pet bereavement policy might include:
- Paid time off to grieve the loss of a pet.
- Personal time off to deal with serious pet health issues.
- Flexible work schedules to enable employees to work remotely, change their hours, or switch shifts with a colleague to care for a sick or dying pet.
- Grief support and access to mental health services to help workers deal with the loss of a pet.
Giving workers time to grieve when they lose a pet doesn’t just benefit them. It is good for the health and productivity of the organization. Pet owners can experience real pain when they lose an animal they consider a family member. If they’re forced to work without time to grieve, it can make them less productive, more prone to make mistakes, and contribute to mental health and wellness issues. It also can negatively impact their moods and hurt their relationships with colleagues and/or customers/clients/residents.
It is important for managers and others to be respectful of a grieving pet parent. It may be difficult for people who aren’t pet owners to understand the true impact of such a loss. However, they should be respectful of and sensitive to the feelings of a worker who has lost a pet. This means, among other things, avoiding comments such as: “It’s just a dog. Can’t you get another one?” or “It’s not like it’s a person.” This kind of insensitivity can hurt staff morale and disrupt teamwork.
If you’re unsure if is this a benefit that would resonate with your workers, consider asking them via a survey or during one-on-one check-ins or team meetings.