We’ve all seen or heard of those workplaces that offer extra perks for their employees. And for pet owners, there is one perk that they value very highly: the ability to take their pet to work with them.
In fact, digital online marketing agency The Bio Agency conducted a survey of 3,000 office workers. Of the people questioned, as many as 55% admitted they would feel more motivated if they had a pet in the office.
Even the White House, arguably the most well known workplace in the world has an office pet – Bo Obama, the First Dog.
Terri Bodell, a consultant clinical psychotherapist and stress expert stated:
“Pets at work can help employees to relax, reduce heart rate and lower blood pressure, which can decrease absenteeism and improve staff morale.
Not only that, but employees that take a break to walk their dog seem to return to work in a more productive and positive frame of mind.
It can also be good for team bonding and office dynamics. Pets in a workplace can help promote social interaction and help people collaborate more effectively.”
Legally however, things aren’t quite so straightforward – they never are!!!
Here are some of the issues to consider:
1. Which Pets?
Not everyone has a dog and due consideration must be given to which pets would be allowed in the office – dogs, cats, snakes, ferrets…. You get he idea. If dogs, which is the most common pet at work, only under a certain size, only certain breeds, only of a certain age?
2. Health and safety
As a business owner, you can be held accountable if an animal you allow in the workplace injures your staff, your customers, or even the postman. It could be worth checking the pet owner has insurance that covers any injuries caused by the pet, or even ask the employee to sign an agreement that will require them to cover the costs of defending any animal attack cases that come your company’s way.
3. Property damage
There’s always the danger of pets damaging carpets, computers, office equipment, furniture and anything else vulnerable in the workplace. You could also be liable if an animal destroys another employee’s personal property that they brought into the office. Again, insurance and signing agreements to cover damages are a good first step, but if you lease your office space, then pets might not even be an option, so check with your landlord and your lease agreement.
4. Staff wellbeing
Not everyone is a pet lover. Some people have a crippling fear of animals, and others are deathly allergic to them. As an employer, you have a legal responsibility to ensure a healthy and safe environment for your staff. This includes their mental wellbeing and an employee with a phobia can be a real problem. If you do decide to introduce a policy allowing pets into the workplace, recruiting new staff is easier as you tell them that your policy is to allow pets and they are either happy with that or they are not and they will decide to join you or not based on their own personal circumstances.
For existing staff, this is more difficult and the introduction of a new policy (or practice) will require consultation and ultimately agreement from everyone concerned.
5. Service animals
If you are confronted with an accommodation request by an employee or a customer who needs a service animal whilst on you premises, you must handle the situation appropriately and delicately to avoid potential complaints and liability. Under the Equality Act 2010, employers are required to make reasonable adjustments for employees who have disabilities – and that includes accommodating any guide dog or assistance animal that has been trained by an accredited organisation.
6. Appropriateness to your environment
There are some businesses where having a pet in the workplace would be an absolute no go. This would include any environment where food is prepared and sold such as a café or restaurant.
In some environments, having a pet can be very beneficial to the clients for example in a care home. The petting of animals can be very therapeutic, lower stress, cholesterol and blood pressure.
- What animals you will allow
- when animals are welcome
- any restrictions or requirements
- what happens if the animal is aggressive, damages property, or is disruptive to work
As always with your HR policies and procedures, your Pet at Work (PAW) policy must be applied consistently to avoid any discrimination claims.
Make sure the owner follows your policies and keeps their pet under control. Of course, you should also make sure the animal is fully licensed and vaccinated, it could be worth asking to see proof of these.
If you’d like more tips and advice regarding animals in the workplace, just get in touch we’d be more than happy to oblige, so just chat to us online below or give us a call
Listen to my chat with Roberto Perrone of BBC 3 Counties Radio to here more on this topic Radio Interviews