Employers often provide bereavement leave for staff if they have lost a family member. But, what if that family member is a cat, dog, or hamster even?
It still remains to be the case that the loss of an animal is not considered to justify leave. Yet, the death of a beloved pet can be a huge loss to the owner, and in many cases, illicit a grief similar to the loss of a person.
Many employees do not have the courage to ask for leave while they cope with their loss and employers do not think to offer it. But, according to research, this could be detrimental to well-being and engagement, as well as productivity.
A study from the University of Hawaii found that of the 106 pet owners interviewed, 30 percent reported grief that lasted six months or longer. 12 percent reported severe grief that resulted in major life disruption.
Furthermore, many owners report feeling a loss of their childhood or their children’s childhood, because as many of us know, a pet is a strong presence growing up. On top of all this, psychologists state that we see our pets as self-objects, meaning we imagine they have our own traits. We think we understand their feelings and they understand ours, making the loss feel deeper and more personal than many would expect.
I believe an employee who has not had the time to process their loss is likely to be unfocused and distracted at work. This can lead to mistakes, a reduction in productivity, and a less engaged employee. Additionally, the stress of loss can lead to actual sickness causing them to take sick leave, whilst parents may find they have to take time off to care for their grieving child. This can mean taking time out of their own holiday leave or taking the day unpaid, which inevitably results in stress and further upset.
The business case for employee engagement and a focus on well-being has long been established. A happy worker is a productive, loyal and motivated one. Employees carrying on under the weight of loss is not likely to produce these results. Furthermore, perhaps by offering this leave you could find candidates are more attracted to the company as a caring one, with such traits becoming increasingly desired among workers. It could also help retain employees by proving to them that you care about their lives outside of work, keeping their well-being at the heart of the business.
I can understand why many are unsure about introducing pet bereavement leave – for instance, it can be hard to know where to draw the line or how severe the grief must be. But, with many companies beginning to introduce PBL and proving it can be a success, is it time more companies start considering pet bereavement leave?