26 May 2016

BUSINESS - Is 'Pawternity Leave' the Next Step in Benefits?

In an effort to accommodate pet owning staff members, companies in the UK are offering flexible benefits for employers who have pets.

(Cheryl Wallach Photography)
For pet-owning professionals, the movement that is being dubbed as ‘pawternity  leave’ may be linked to increased productivity and employee morale.

Gregory Buchanan of Manchester, UK-based tech support company, BitSol Systems, is one such employer who is offering employees some form of ‘pawternity leave’ – up to one week of paid leave for employees who acquire new pets.

“Obviously we take it on a case-by-case decision," said Buchanan in an interview last month. "If somebody’s asking for time off for a goldfish, no,  no — then it’s not quite what we set out for.”

ANZ Bank in New Zealand also offers this benefit on a case-by-case basis. “Anyone can request flexibility for any reason, including ‘pawternity’ leave,” ANZ spokeswoman Sonia Bell told the NZ Herald.

Canada’s own Shopper’s Drug Mart has been flagged as offering time off for pet owners in bereavement.

According to Shopper’s spokesperson, Lana Gogas, while the drugstore has no plans to change their benefits package, they are offering flexibility to their pet owning staff members:

“Shoppers Drug Mart offers flexibility to employees who are dealing with a death in the family - this includes pets. Appreciating that each instance is unique, the employee and his or her manager can establish an appropriate length of time away from the office to deal with grieving.”

While online communities are abuzz with both criticism and support of the notion of ‘pawternity leave’, one argument is that the pet industry has grown to a point where this is the next step.

According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), American pet owners are spending some $60 billion a year on their furry family members, a dramatic increase from $17 billion in 1994.

The APPA’s 2015-16 National Pet Owners Survey also reveals that 65% of U.S. households own a pet (mostly dogs and cats); that works out to 79.7 million homes.

By contrast, according to childstats.gov there are 73.7 million children aged 0-17 years living in U.S. households this year, whereas there were 68.6 million in 1994, lending some evidence to the continued population decline in North America.

By Lindsay Seewalt
Lindsay is an experienced journalist and mother of three whose heart and home is always open to a four-legged friend. With her Corgi, Angie, as household editor-in-chief, Lindsay gives back to the animal planet through the written word on anything and all ado about pets. She is passionate about topics regarding animal welfare and responsible pet ownership, which she aims to instill in both her readers and children to be compassionate animal lovers who are conscious and considerate that furry friends around the globe deserve a voice.

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