A worker walked out on their job after their boss berated them for taking time off work following the death of a family pet.
As reported by The Independent, the employee was told their dog’s death “wasn’t the best reason” to take time off at short notice, prompting them to hand in their two weeks’ notice.
Sharing details of the incident on Reddit’s notorious ‘Anti-work’ forum, the employee, who identified herself only as Hope, explained she texted her boss to say she had a “family emergency” and wouldn’t be able to make it for her shift later that day.
The boss initially responded by insisting Hope would have to find cover for the shift herself (despite this clearly being a manager’s responsibility), before they probed further and asked what the family emergency was.
Hope revealed that her family dog had been put down, to which the boss responded: “That’s not the best reasons to tell me you’re not coming into work.”
Stunned by her boss’s apparent lack of compassion, Hope responded: “I’m also turning in my two weeks but if you need something written, I can do that as well.”
Staff shouldn’t feel bad for grieving over a pet
This boss’s reaction to their employee losing a pet may be rare, but in the not too recent past, this reaction would have been far more widespread. The impact on a worker’s mental health would have been largely dismissed, especially when compared to any workers unfortunate enough to be taking bereavement leave following the death of a relative.
However, the dialogue around losing a pet has rightfully become much more nuanced and underpinned by a deeper understanding of the psychological impact.
Marilyn Devonish, a Career Coach and NLP practitioner specialising in neurological issues, recently discussed the issue of losing a pet with myGrapevine.
Devonish, who has been a therapist for the past 22 years, is also a corporate Mental Health First Aid Trainer – an organisation whose course contains a section on grief.
She explained: “I always tell my attendees that I have extended the conversation around compassionate leave to include pets, because for many, their animals are part of the family.
“I know when I first started working in the 1980s one might have been laughed out of the office for wanting time to grieve for a pet. Now, I hope it is a valid part of the conversation. Whether an organisation officially gives bereavement time is an individual organisational conversation, I hope people no longer feel silly for recognising it or being affected by it.”
Pets - a growing area of HR’s remit
In the past few years, there has been a growing acceptance among businesses over the impact that pets have on an employee’s mental wellbeing.
Additionally, the pandemic saw a pet ‘baby boom’ with many households introducing dogs to the family. Now, owners and their pets have adjusted to the return to the office and the introduction of hybrid working practices, with less time spent together at home.
Employers and their teams are also increasingly aware of the importance of colleague wellbeing. Dogs can contribute to a positive workplace environment and, in some cases, can help to reduce stress and anxiety.
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It's no surprise, therefore, that between January and May 2022, the total number of job searches for roles with dog-friendly offices increased by 53%, according to flexible jobs platform Flexa Careers. As such, a number of firms have introduced pet-friendly policies to reflect these changes.
In late 2021, Pets at Home launched PETiquette, a service helping companies across the UK to welcome dogs into the workplace.
The programme is part of Pets at Home’s wider commitment to supporting its people and pets. The initiative sets out helpful guidelines for businesses to welcome our furry friends but also to ensure that all colleagues feel comfortable, whether or not they have a dog
Pets at Home was the first adopter of the PETiquette programme and also offers ‘PETternity leave,’ which sees colleagues able to take a day off when they get a new dog, cat, or horse to welcome the pet home and help it to settle in.
Jane Beresford, Group Director of People Partnering, said: “There can be many benefits to having dogs in the office, including the links to boosting morale and promoting positive mental health. There are also advantages for our pets, who have become used to having their owners at home over the pandemic. But going ‘dog friendly’ should not be a quick decision and that is why we have created our PETiquette guide, so that employers can create the best environment for both their people and pets.”