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Should Employees Be Allowed Time Off After the Loss of a Dog or Cat?

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If you are a dog or a cat owner, you have either experienced the loss of a beloved pet or will experience that loss in time. Even the thought of the day you must say goodbye to your fave furry friend is enough to bring tears to your eyes. Non-animal lovers sometimes struggle to understand the heart of their dog and cat loving friends. But a pet is not just an animal; for most owners, dogs and cats are cherished family members. They are so much a part of family life that sometimes they are the one thing that every person in the house can agree on when everything else seems to be the source for an argument. Bereavement leave is often extended to employees who experience the loss of a human family member or close friend. Yet with pets, there seems to be some question if time off should be permitted to grieve the loss of a dog or cat.

The Case for Bereavement Leave After the Loss of a Pet

Though more and more companies have adopted flexible work policies which afford their employees the opportunity to operate under less than traditional working hours, few are willing to bestow paid leave upon workers in need of time to grieve the loss of a beloved pet. Many businesses offer their staff access to a certain number of personal days which can be used in any manner the employee deems fit, and these could be used to mourn the loss of a cherished dog or cat. However, for most companies, the loss of a pet is not considered “on par” with the loss of a person.

Why is that?

Many companies fear if they enact a policy which allows bereavement leave for people suffering any loss, be it a pet or a person, that their kindness will end up being taken advantage of. Their concern is that non-pet owning employees who simply want the pay without having to do the work may start inventing dead “pets” to grieve to take advantage of the company’s compassionate pet loss policy. Though there would certainly be some who would work the system to their advantage; on the whole, this is likely an unfounded fear. But more than this some employers feel that a pet bereavement policy might be construed as showing preferential treatment to employees who own pets over those who choose to remain pet-free.

The truth is grief is about loss. Whether that loss is a person or a pet, the loss is still deep and significant, and time must be expended in mourning to process and to heal.

Here are some reasons why it is to every employer’s benefit to consider instituting a bereavement policy which includes time off to honor the loss of a pet:

Grieving employees have difficulty focusing on their work.
When your employees are at work, it only stands to reason that you want their full attention to be on their job. But after a loss, people are emotional. Though some are able to disassociate from the pain to focus on the task at hand, many are far too overwhelmed to have the ability to concentrate. If you want the best possible performance from your employees, allowing them a day or two to process and mourn the loss of a pet will give them the needed opportunity to sort through their emotions and return to work with a clearer head and improved mental acuity.

The loss of a pet impacts not only the employee but also the employee’s entire family.
Loss doesn’t happen to just one person; it affects an entire family. Employees not only have their own emotions to manage, they also have husbands or wives and children in need of comfort and support. One of the kindest things an employer can do for an employee is to give them the freedom to be present to console their family in times of loss and grief. 

Time off for the loss of a pet has a positive impact on mental health.
Grief will not be stifled forever. If employees are forced to put their feelings on hold in order to function at work, the grief will resurface and often at the most inopportune times. Grief delayed is more devastating than what a person experiences if allowed to mourn in real time. Part of providing a positive work environment for employees includes caring enough to offer space to process the painful emotions associated with loss.

The loss of a pet often takes a physical toll on an employee.
The death of a pet doesn’t always happen suddenly. In fact, pets passing in their sleep is an extremely rare occurrence though it is the hope of every pet owner. This means that employees have often spent many sleepless nights leading up to the passing of their beloved dog or cat. Many will burn the midnight oil watching a restless elderly pet pace or trying to bring comfort to a dog or cat in irredeemable pain. For some, they will need to take their pet to the vet and stay with them while they pass from this life to the next. What does this mean? It means employees who have experienced this type of loss are fatigued. They are fatigued physically, and they are fatigued mentally, and often the very best thing that they can do is sleep. Allowing employees the space to tend to their physical needs is one of the kindest things an employer can do for a valued worker.

Offering bereavement leave to pet owners engenders good will.
Implementing a company policy which allows bereavement leave shows compassion for employees, and that compassion is deeply appreciated by employees who own pets. People work harder and are more loyal to companies that express care and concern for their mental well-being, and pet owners love nothing more than someone who cares enough about them and their pets than to give them the opportunity to take the time to properly grieve their loss when the time comes. 

Should employees be allowed time off after the loss of a dog or cat? Well, that depends on who you ask! In terms of overall productivity, a few extra days off at a difficult time in an employee’s life will actually reap great rewards in terms of loyalty, improved mental outlook, and overall focus. For a happy employee, it is wise to consider the things in their lives that are important to them and how that affects their performance on the job. A loss is a loss whether is a pet or a person. A little time off to process and heal will go a long way to build strong employer-employee relationships, and that can only be a good thing!

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