By Mairead Walsh, Head of Marketing & Communications, Softworks
I don’t personally have a dog which is quite surprising considering the amount of pleading I have got over the years from my kids. I do love dogs. As a kid there were plenty of dogs coming and going in my house, as my sister brought home every waif and stray much to my mother’s dismay. In all honesty I’d love a dog – please don’t tell the kids though!
My reluctance is that I’m just not sure I’ve got the time between working and looking after my kids’ busy social lives. Dogs are a lot of work, particularly when they are puppies so I was intrigued to hear that some companies are now offering ‘pawternity’ leave.
So, what exactly is pawternity leave? Apparently, it’s just like maternity or paternity leave but for a new pet, instead of a new baby. The unpaid time off is allowed in order to give pet owners time to take care of their new pet whether this is a kitten, puppy, rabbit, hamster or whatever you’re having yourself…
Looking a bit deeper into this new leave, it came as no surprise to find out that some of the companies offering this leave are pet-themed companies. The Scottish brewery BrewDog offers a week of paid leave for employees with new puppies or rescued dogs. BrewDog co-founder, James Watt has this to say:
“It’s not easy trying to juggle work and settle a new dog into your life, and many members of our crew have four-legged friends at home. So, we wanted to take the stress out of the situation and let our teams take the time they need to welcome their new puppy or dog into their family. We always want to raise the bar when it comes to offering our staff the best possible benefits; at BrewDog, we care about two things above all else. People and beer. We also just really really like dogs.”
BrewDog, was started by two men and a dog back in 2007, and both co-founders are commonly found accompanied by canines Simcoe and Dr Gonzo.
Mars Petcare the people behind big pet food brands including: Whiskas, Pedigree Chum and Kitekat now offer their employees ten hours of paid leave for a new pet. Once their pets have settled in, they are allowed to join their owners in the office. Former Mars’ HR Director Kate Menzies commented on why they have introduced this leave.
“We want to enable and ease responsible pet ownership for our employees. Dogs and cats are at the heart of our business and our policy is designed to embrace a culture that is passionate about pets.”
She also had this to say;
“Having pets in the workplace comes with many great benefits including relieving stress and improving productivity, as well as breaking down barriers between employees which creates a more relaxed environment.”
But it’s not just pet themed companies. BitSol Solutions -an IT company- in Manchester has also got on board and offers their employees a week off paid leave. According to company owner Greg Buchanan
“Pets are like babies nowadays, so why shouldn’t staff have some time off when they arrive?”
Looking at the statistics, pets are extremely important to households in the UK with 45% of the population owning a pet according to Statista. Their research shows a ranking of the leading pets owned by households in the UK. Unsurprisingly the most popular individual pet owned is the dog, with 26% of people owning one. The least owned common pet type is mice, with just 0.03% of the population owning one. What’s really interesting is that over 90% of pet owners in the UK say that owning a pet makes them feel happy and 88% feel that pet ownership improves their overall quality of life. So perhaps it’s good to encourage your workforce to have a pet in their lives.
Pawternity leave is not just a UK or European phenomenon. It appears to be gathering strength and popularity, with companies in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, also getting on board. While it might still sound a bit “barking mad” to some of us non-pet owners – in a world where attracting talent is becoming more and more competitive, this type of benefit might work for many businesses and be attractive to potential employees.
We all need to open our minds to the types of benefits our workforce might want now and, in the future, even if those benefits seem a little unusual. In our organisation we are still thinking about it and it’s certainly worth considering if it is valued by our current and potential employees.