I’m very lucky that my employer has a liberal definition of family and a flexible policy for leave. My boss knows that my dogs, Charlotte and Mercury, are my children. I treat them as such, and so my work allows me to use sick and personal time to take the pups to veterinary appointments and to care for them after procedures.
I recently learned of pet parents who are even more fortunate: those in the U.K. who work for Mars Petcare and other generous employers. These lucky folks get “peternity leave.” According to the Mirror newspaper, almost one in 20 new pet owners in the UK has been offered access to this new type of time off.
Mars Petcare began offering the leave to its U.K. employees so they could properly incorporate new pets into their families. I am totally obsessed with this idea (I would LOVE to have peternity leave for the next time we adopt) and wanted to learn more. I was especially curious about whether this policy was spreading to the United States, so I reached out to Mars Petcare.
“The role pets have in our lives today has evolved — pets are now family members, providing emotional support. When pets are first introduced to families, we believe it is important to foster time for the whole family to bond,” said Angel May, the senior manager for corporate communications with Mars Petcare.
The peternity policy has yet to spread to spread to all of the countries where the company operates, due to labor laws, according to May, but she points to other company practices such as a fully paid day off for bringing home a new pet and for pet bereavement as well as working from home as needed.
We don’t have guaranteed universal paid maternity leave in the U.S. for those having human children, so I suppose it’s too much to hope for that we will see any kind of paid leave widely provided to pet parents here. I have to hope that maybe someday it will happen.
As society pushes for parents of human children to get more protections, including paid parental leave, perhaps we will see increased recognition that dogs are also part of our families. I’m not sure we will ever get to a point where large numbers will have access to paid peternity leave, though. Mars Petcare isn’t extending peternity leave to its employees in the U.S. yet, but the company has taken other pet-friendly steps in addition to those noted above.
“In years past, we have put a lot of focus on making our offices, wherever possible, a pet-friendly place to work,” said May. “Our associates enjoy having pets around — they let us relax, make us feel happier, and help us connect with each other.”
I dream of being able to work in a dog-friendly workplace again — at my last job, I used to bring little Mercury with me. He loved it, and so did I!
Let’s hear from you now. Are you able to take your dog to work? Does your employer offer any type of pet leave? If you had the chance to take a peternity leave, would you? Tell us in the comments.