How do we handle requests for time off when pets are ill? Peternity Leave?

How do we handle requests for time off when pets are ill? Peternity Leave?

May 18, 2024

This one is going to be divisive. Some people will question why this is a question at all?

The Request

In today’s workplace, the bond between employees and their pets is stronger than ever. With pets often considered family members, employees may request time off work when their pets are ill. As a manager, handling such requests with empathy and fairness is essential for maintaining morale and ensuring productivity. Here are some strategies for effectively managing these situations.

Your Rights

There is no such thing as Peternity Leave. Whilst employees have a right to unpaid time off to deal with emergencies involving a dependent. This doesn’t cover pets.

Understanding the Emotional Connection

Pets provide emotional support and companionship, significantly impacting an employee’s well-being. When a pet falls ill, the stress and anxiety experienced by the owner can be comparable to that felt for a human family member. Recognising this emotional connection is the first step in responding to such requests compassionately.

Creating a Pet-Friendly Policy

If you were a larger organisation you would consider implementing a pet-related leave policy. A policy to outline the conditions under which employees may take time off to care for their pets. This would ensure that you have set expectations and would ensure consistency in handling requests. A smaller employer doesn’t need a policy as such but does need to be consistent to prevent claims of bias.

Assessing the Request

When an employee requests time off for a pet’s illness, assess the situation individually. Engage in a conversation to understand the severity of the pet’s condition and the employee’s role in their care. This dialogue not only shows your support but also helps you determine the appropriate amount of leave needed. For instance, a few hours off for a vet appointment may suffice in some cases, while others might require a couple of days.

Flexible Work Arrangements

You may be able to be flexible where someone works whilst their pet is ill or you may be able to allow employees to swap shifts. This can help them manage their responsibilities without compromising their job. Flexibility not only aids in handling the immediate crisis but also builds a culture of trust and support. As an employer we’ve done this where animals need to taken to the vets. It prevents losing people for the day when you can just have them work from home and lose a limited amount of time.

Promoting a Supportive Environment

Cultivating a supportive work environment where employees feel comfortable discussing personal issues, including pet-related concerns, enhances overall job satisfaction. Encourage a culture of empathy and understanding, where colleagues support one another during challenging times.


Handling employee requests for pet-related leave with empathy and flexibility demonstrates your commitment to their well-being. By implementing clear policies, offering flexible arrangements, and fostering a supportive environment, you can effectively manage these situations while maintaining a productive workplace. Remember, a compassionate approach not only benefits your employees but also contributes to a positive organisational culture.

You can read another article about workplace culture here.

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