Amanda Augustine, careers expert at TopCV discusses whether ‘pawternity leave’ is really a useful benefit

Last Friday, dog owners across the UK and US happily brought their furry pals to work as part of Bring Your Dog to Work Day (BYDTWD), an annual event that is aimed at raising awareness and money for animal rescue charities. Now in its sixth year, this initiative offers dog owners an opportunity to share with their colleagues the many benefits that come with spending quality time around their four-legged friends, including reduced blood pressure, lower stress levels and boosted mood. As the proud mother of a 9-year-old golden retriever named Marlin, I can wholeheartedly attest to these benefits.

Many companies have decided not to stop at BYDTWD by allowing employees to bring their pets to the office all year round. Some organisations, including Mars Petcare, purveyor of Whiskas and Pedigree Chum, have taken it a step further by offering additional pet-friendly policies such as ‘pawternity’ leave – paid time-off to look after a new furry addition to the family.

Is this employee benefit just a fad to attract millennials, who are now the primary pet-owning generation and will make up 50 per cent of the workforce by 2020, or is it a genuine policy that aligns with the times of a dog-obsessed society?

What may have started out as a ploy to attract and retain young candidates in a competitive talent market has become a smart method for cultivating a happier, healthier and more productive workforce across all generations. Pet ownership is on the rise across the globe, with two-thirds of consumers owning a pet in 2016, up from 60 per cent in 2014. At the same time, work-related stress is reportedly costing UK businesses billions of dollars each year in lost productivity.

By instituting pet-supportive policies such as pawternity leave, employers are making it easier for their employees to reap the many benefits that come with pet ownership, whilst simultaneously improving job satisfaction, office morale and employee productivity within their organisations. After all, employees are more productive when they’re content – as much as 12 per cent, according to a report from the University of Warwick. It’s a win-win.

In addition, perks like pawternity leave also align with the way we work in 2019; flexible and remote working is becoming increasingly more common and self-employment in the UK workforce continues to gain momentum. Co-working spaces like WeWork have already cottoned onto this by allowing dogs to sit alongside humans where they can – and some even offer dog-walking services.

If you are planning to institute a pet-friendly policy such as pawternity leave at your organisation, you must be clear with employees on the terms. For example, it’s important that you clearly define what constitutes a pet and if these benefits will only apply to cat or dog owners or if they will be extended to other types of pet owners. In addition, I suggest starting small before committing to a comprehensive pawternity policy. For example, you might start by offering a flexible working arrangement to new pet parents for a week’s time. If this test proves successful for both the organisation and your employees, then you can consider adopting a broader set of pet-supportive benefits.

Ultimately, pet-friendly benefits like pawternity leave allow employees to strike a healthy work-life balance, eliminate the stress that comes with taking in a new animal and can aide in a company’s journey to providing a content and productive workforce.