Categories: grief

Should businesses allow their employees to take time off to grieve the death of their cat or dog?

A recent story by Elisa, prompts me to write this article. In that story a young female employee at a fast food chain insisted on taking a day off on the death of her beloved dog and she was sacked because she couldn’t find a replacement.

Photo: Aflo/REX/Shutterstock (8852241k)
A cat rests between computers at Ferray Corporation, Tokyo, Japan. The importance of cats in the lives of employees is highlighted by this policy which supports the argument to give leave on the passing of a cat or dog.

I have thought about the question and come to the conclusion that employers should allow a short period of time for employees to grieve on the passing of their cat or dog. The main reason for this decision is that if you don’t allow it employees may well be turned off and treat the company as a hostile place to work.

Why should they do this? The answer is simple: because employees nearly always treat their cat or dog as a family member. In fact, their companion animal may be more important than a human member of the family e.g. their mother, father or siblings. Therefore the passing of a companion animal may have a greater impact emotionally than the passing of a human family member. It means a lot to a person and a business should be sensitive towards this emotion. Companies should be compassionate towards their employees both for the point of view of decency and productivity.

If an employee is determined to take a day off or more (but limited to perhaps three days) then they will take that time off whether they’re allowed to or not. They’ll phone in and say they’re sick and use that as a reason. So the employer might as well demonstrate to the employee that they are a good business to work for and give them the time off anyway.

Many firms actually do this and are sympathetic towards companion animals. Many companies nowadays allow employees to bring their dogs and even cats onto work premises. For example, Google and Amazon are filled with dogs apparently. A Tokyo-based IT firm, Ferray, “doubles as a home for its staff’s cats” according to a BBC article.

There are practical reasons too. Many cat and dog owners will want to arrange an individual crematiion and that requires a hands on approach. You have to be at the crematorium to ensure that it is done to order. It takes time; a day should be allocated for it.

There is no doubt that there is a greater flexibility in allowing companion animals onto work premises because they can improve productivity. There is also greater awareness of the equality between companion animal and humans in terms of their rights. The rights aren’t yet equal but society grants animals greater rights nowadays than before.

If a decision is made to grant say a maximum of three days leave on the passing of a pet then the decision is made based on the emotional state of the employee. As the emotional state of the employee is no different on the loss of a family member compared to the loss of a companion animal than the bases for the decision to grant leave is the same and it should be granted but limited.

The limitation should be with respect to cats and dogs only and to a three-day maximum leave. The policy should be also be limited to cats and dogs to avoid abuses by employees e.g. “My goldfish passed and I am distraught”. And it should only apply to the death of a pet.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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  • Absolutely!!! I will take time off for my kids when they move to the bridge. They are our children! Some humans can not have flesh children and choose to have furkids. Some like myself can't stand flesh children and choose to have furkids. Either way employers should allow bereavement for employees who have lost a furkid.

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