Personally I have never worked in a place where cats were allowed; or dogs or any other “pet”. It was never even considered. It didn’t enter the minds of anyone let alone the people in charge. Now that I can look back on it, I generally worked in sterile, slightly dehumanising environments. I was glad to get home after work.
On the internet, you will see pictures of cats at workplaces and the cats always look at home and they always seem to be an asset to the workplace. However, it can’t always work well. There are downsides or complications to having a cat in the workplace but I think they can be accommodated if some sensible rules are in place.
The sort of workplaces where I have seen cats are veterinary clinics, cat shelters, a hospice (Oscar) and bookstores. A cat is a perfect addition to the staff at a book store in my opinion. They provide a nice talking point, make the place more like a home and help to get people reading and buying.
Another sort of workplace where cats can be useful is theatres. In London they are often old buildings were there is possibly a risk of rodent infestations. Cats can sort that problem out.
It seems to me that some of the problems with cats at the workplace are:
- Some people don’t like cats! Silly people…
- Some people like cats or don’t mind cats but are allergic to them…
- Both the above potentially make the workplace a health hazard for some people. This may cause a headache for a employer who likes cats and wants to try out the idea of having a cat in the workplace.
- Cats like to do their own thing and roam around. How do you keep control of that? Is the place safe for a cat?
There is no doubt that some fairly tight but sensible rules would need to be in place at the workplace if cats were allowed.
There would be a much better chance of success in a small business of say about 20 people as you could get an agreement at the beginning and even work out some rules together with an eye on any laws and government regulations. What are the relevant workplace laws? Well there are rather hard to find as usual.
In England, Wales and N.Ireland the general law on health and safety at work is the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. Clause 2 (2) (e) says that it is the employer’s duty to ensure…
the provision and maintenance of a working environment for his employees that is, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe, without risks to health, and adequate as regards facilities and arrangements for their welfare at work.
I would not have thought that a cat presents a health hazard in general at work. One issue might be that if a person has a fear of cats he might claim that the employer is discriminating against him in allowing someone else to bring a cat to work. That might depend on whether a fear of cats is treated as a disability in the same bracket as being in a wheelchair. The trouble is that for an employer the law is complicated and burdensome. They don’t want to get involved and therefore steer clear, which is a shame.
In America the relevant disabilities laws are: Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 1990 and ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) 2008. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) (final regulations issued 2011) helps interpret these Acts.
In the past they were interpreted in a restrictive or limited way so would not be relevant to the matter of a cat in the workplace, I would have thought. The position may have changed.
In England, Wales and N. Ireland the definition of a disabled person is found under the Equality Act 2010. Essentially there has to be physical or mental impairment. It has to have a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. On this basis I cannot see “cat-phobia” or a fear of cats qualifying as a disability. In which case an employer should not be concerned about this aspect of the law when keeping a cat at the workplace. Does someone know any better?
Benefits of cats and dogs are work
- De-stresses the workplace
- Improves morale at workplace and
- Adds some laughter…
- Makes you more likely to stay at work rather than dash home
- Accommodates the employees in making life more manageable for single people who look after a cat or dog.
- Dogs present problems such as barking
- Cats present problems such as allergies to cats or a fear of cats
- Adds another layer of complication in the employer to employee relationship.
The kind of rules that might be in places would be:
- Cats should be confined to certain areas
- Cats should be on a leash when leaving a certain area
- Cats would have to be litter trained and there would have to a perfect track record of using the litter at work.
- Employees who were allowed to bring a cat to work would have to agree to clean up and manage their cat properly.
The only way an employer will allow a cat at work is if it improves the productivity of employees. It would be up to the employees to demonstrate that that was the case.
There is no doubt though that the modern workplace is very different. The classic, advanced, no expense spared workplaces are found at the offices of Google and Facebook. Apple probably have a similar work environment.
These places are like home from home. They are very pleasant places to be. They have nice color schemes, open plan areas, lots of food and an airy feel about them. The one thing they lack is a cat.
- Cat at shelter: photo by Tjflex2
- Cat in bookstore: Photo by terriem
- Photo of Oscar in the public domain.
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