Advice by Kate Palmer, HR Advice Director at Peninsula…
Pet ownership in the UK has exploded during the pandemic, with 3.2 million households getting a new pet during lockdown. According to data from the Pet Food Manufacturers association, over half of new owners are in the younger age bracket, with 59% under 34 which means millions of animals who have had their humans around them during lockdown may soon be left alone for long periods as offices reopen and workers are expected back. So, can workers bring their pets to the office?
Employers who run a modern workplace may wish to allow their employees to bring their pets to work with them. This is a great way to help employees transition back to the workplace if they have worked from home or been on furlough for the past few months. However, it is a good idea to draw up a policy to help regulate the company’s position on pets at work.
Creating a policy does not have to be an arduous task for employers, but it is always a good idea to seek advice if they are unsure how to tailor the policy to their business. As a starting point, employers may wish to insist that pets must be inoculated against infections before being allowed in the workplace. In addition to this, a pets at work policy may also include:
- owners providing adequate training – pets should be controllable and have a good temperament as they will most likely be around other employees
- pet-free zones – this is especially important if employers have staff who aren’t as fond of the idea of office pets, or they may have allergies. It is an employer’s duty to accommodate for such issues, and creating a space where pets can and cannot go is a good business practice to follow
- health and hygiene practices – with coronavirus still posing a threat, employers are likely already keeping a strict cleaning routine, but it is advisable for pet areas to be closely monitored and kept clean, perhaps by their owners or by employers if they wish to take on the responsibility
- a complaints procedure – while many staff members may delight in the arrival of pets in the workplace, others may not
- a ‘one pet a week’ rule – rather than filling the office with several different types of animals at one go, it may be more suitable, depending on the working environment, to limit this.
For employers still on the fence, it may be helpful first to weigh up the pros and cons of having pets at work before deciding to either allow it or refuse it. A significant consideration is that not all employees will be enthusiastic about an office pet. Some, for example, may have an allergy or phobia. Animals can also disrupt the daily routine of the workplace, depending on the type. On the other hand, pets can boost morale, reduce stress levels, and improve employee productivity. Alternatively, instead of permitting pets at work, employers can introduce pet bereavement leave – time off when an employee’s pet dies – and flexibility in response to pet-related issues such as vet appointments.