Employers Giving A New Type Of Bereavement Leave

Pet ownership has skyrocketed during the pandemic, prompting companies to re-evaluate their policies to better accommodate employees who have embraced furry friends as family.

While some businesses have already implemented pet-friendly policies, very few offer employees time off to grieve when their animal companions pass away. The American Pet Products Association reported that adoption rates increased significantly in 2020 and 2021, highlighting the growing importance of pets in people’s lives.

As the number of pet owners continues to rise, companies are recognizing the need for bereavement leave for employees who have lost a beloved pet. This was evidenced by a recent study that found positive consequences of pet-friendly practices for workers’ well-being, including a license of bereavement following a pet death. Companies that have implemented this benefit have also seen improved employee morale, retention rates, company loyalty, and lower stress levels, according to a recent literature review.

Despite the clear benefits of pet-friendly policies, very few employers have incorporated them into their company practices. However, a 12-hour conference held in Los Angeles last year reflected the existing employee pet benefits, with attendees including Google, Imax, Starbucks, United Airlines, Walmart, Whole Foods, and Zoom. These companies discussed the potential for more workplace support for pets, such as “pawternity” leave, bereavement days, dog-boarding in the office, discounted insurance, and opportunities to bring furry companions to work.

Tech giants like Google and Amazon have long been known for their pet-friendly work environments, allowing employees to bring their pet dogs to work since 1999. However, even as more workers return to the office, pet ownership rates remain elevated. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), almost one in five Americans adopted a dog or cat between 2020 and 2021. This trend is unlikely to taper off anytime soon, as pets continue to bring comfort and companionship during uncertain times.

Erika Sinner, CEO of Directors and author of “Pets Are Family,” believes that society’s views on grief are evolving, and this should shape workplace policies. She notes that the lack of federal laws around bereavement leave is likely due to a discomfort with discussing grief openly.

However, Sinner argues that normalizing the topic and recognizing pets as part of the family structure can lead to more inclusive policies in the workplace. Currently, only five states (California, Illinois, Maryland, Oregon, and Washington) offer some sort of bereavement leave policy.

According to a 2023 survey by Pew Research, 62 percent of Americans are pet owners, and nearly 97 percent of these consider their pets as part of the family. More than half (51 percent) of pet owners also say that their furry companions are as much a part of the family as human members. This highlights the strong bond between pets and their owners and further emphasizes the need for supportive policies in the workplace.

Erika Sinner points out that implementing pet-friendly policies is a way for companies to show that they care about their employees beyond their job titles. It also recognizes that life outside of work can significantly impact performance at work. “I think a nice way to do that is to have a policy that’s black and white,” she says. As pet ownership continues to rise, it is important for companies to embrace these changes and create inclusive policies that support their employees’ well-being.


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