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Should Your Business Offer 'Pawternity Leave'?

By Lisa M. Schaffer, Esq. | Last updated on

Companies often try to keep up with the competition when it comes to offering employee perks. After all, providing great benefits is key to attracting and retaining top talent. Many experts say that the days of offering on-campus benefits, like free lunches, are waning. Rather, perks that currently get people's attention are opportunities to spend time off-campus. The latest off-campus employee benefit to hit the scene is pawternity leave.

Pawternity -- Welcome to The Family, Furry Friend!

As the name suggests, pawternity is taking paid time off to be with your new canine family member. For some companies, it's all dogs. For others, it's only for rescue dogs. Interestingly, it seems to only apply to dogs, and not other pets, which seems discriminatory in this open-minded day and age. Time off ranges from two weeks to merely affording some flexibility. For those employees that don't want to have children, or are too old to have any more, this may be a welcomed addition to the extraordinary maternity and paternity benefits given these days. But is the trend catching on?

Waiting to Launch This Side of the Pond

According to a survey by PetPlan, about 5% of owners in the UK have been offered paid pawternity leave to adjust to their new pet, and all the changes and responsibilities that entails. But in the US, the trend hasn't caught on match past the companies in the pet industry. Most US companies seem to be sticking to on-campus pet perks for now, such as allowing them to be brought in to the office. In fact, more US companies offer pet-grieving time, when their pets die, than pawternity, which may say something about the Corporate American psyche.

Could Pawternity Be a Good Fit for Your Company?

But perhaps pawternity could be a good thing. As an employer, hitting the sweet spot of employee benefits is when you offer ones that employees love that don't negatively affect your business or profits. Yes, pawternity is like PTO, which is one of the most preferred benefits companies offer. But would it really be a true cost to you? Meaning, have you noticed when your employees get a new pet, they call in sick, and you are forced to scramble to find coverage rather than having it planned? And think about a possible trade-off. Would you prefer to get rid of having dogs in the office because they are distracting and a health issue to those with allergies, causing fellow employees to take sick days? Do you get complaints that maternity and paternity leave is unfair and biased? If so, offering some pawternity leave may be a good thing. After all, how many dogs does someone acquire during the course of a job? One? Maybe two?

Take inventory of the benefits your company offers, those offered by your competition, and those that employees use most. And then consider pawternity. If it seems right for you and your business, contact an employment attorney, who can draw up the best language to include in your employee handbook, just to make sure your tail is covered.

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