23 March 2016

BUSINESS - Companies Offering Pet Bereavement Days

(Cheryl Wallach)
Now that's pet-friendly.

Some American workplaces are giving people bereavement days to at least get over the initial shock of losing a beloved pet and start the mourning process, according to CBS Miami.

Not only is offering pet bereavement days a compassionate move but it is also an acknowledgement that on the heels of saying goodbye to a beloved animal, which is often considered part of the family, an employee might not work so well – at work.

Perhaps not a huge surprise, pet insurance company, Trupanion, gives workers one paid pet bereavement day.

But other companies are on board with similar plans too, despite an absence of federal or state laws requiring them to make the offer to employees faced with losing a pet.

Software company VM Ware and Maxwell Health gives employees flexible days off while Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants allows managers to grant up to three days away from work.

With 30% of pet owners surveyed saying they felt grief and sadness for at least six months after losing an animal, pet loss counsellor Janet Zimmerman told CBS Miami it’s critical they take some time off to start the process of letting go. “It’s really very, very difficult to function and if you can’t function, you certainly can’t function at work, and you’re really not the person you were before. You need the time to get back to some sense of normality,” she says.

It's something Trupanion understands and accommodates for its workers. “We allow people to actually do that grieving process and just, just be able to heal,” Dani Kahn with Trupanion says. “I think you need closure when you lose a pet, and it’s important to have the time to do that.”

Studies show people experience the same numbness, shock, disbelief, guilt, and anger as they would if a person died and most grieving pet owners need a few days to a week to deal with the initial shock.

It seems the concept of pet bereavement days resonates beyond the U.S.

A Canadian radio station, CJVR, posted an online poll where 75% of respondents agreed with granting pet bereavement days to employees.

Several years ago, in Australia, there was debate on whether companies should offer bereavement leave, make one day paid pet bereavement leave mandatory or give it a pass entirely.

A survey by insurance company, Direct Line, says pet owners in the U.K take 8 million days off on account of grieving the loss of a pet, that one in four claimed they were too upset to go into work and those who did said they were unproductive.

The same survey found nearly 80% felt their boss would not understand their need for a pet bereavement day and if they were to get on it would be by calling in and claiming they were simply too sick to be at work.

While many people understand the devastating loss, online chatter shows many do not believe it warrants time off work with some even scoffing a pet bereavement day is “a job perk,” which simply goes too far.

Erica Lee was given time off from work to try to cope with her death of her dog, Chief, and also some time to help her son understand the loss. And she is forever grateful.

“I was heartbroken,” she told CBS Miami. “Being able to stay home with him and grieve with (my son,) was invaluable. It was so, so important to me. This should absolutely be the norm for many businesses if not all.”

By Nadia Moharib
Nadia Moharib is an animal lover who has adopted everything from birds to hamsters, salamanders, rabbits, fish and felines. She has written about all-things-pets for years and was a long-time editor of a pet magazine in a daily newspaper which featured a Q & A column, Ask Whit, penned by her pooch (ghost written, of course.) The serial dog owner lives in Calgary, Alberta and most days can be found at a dog park picking up after her rescue pooch, Scoots.

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