pets in the workplace

How to Create a Fair and Effective Policy for Pets in the Workplace

Look around your office or workplace. More than two of every three people you work with own a pet. According to the 2017-18 National Pet Owners Survey, approximately 68 percent of U.S. households own at least one pet. And, these pet owners spent a combined $69.51 billion on their pets in 2017, up almost $3 billion from the previous year.

Not only do people own more pets, but more people also consider their pets family members.  In a 2015 Harris Poll, 95 percent of pet owners said they consider their pets to be a part of their family. So, people are owning more pets, spending more money on them, and believe them a part of the family.

Whether you know it or not, pet ownership is likely affecting your company. As a result, your company needs a clear and effective, written policy detailing your organization’s relationship with pets. Below we’ll go through four pet-friendly benefits, then detail how our furry friends can positively affect your business.


1. Pet Insurance

Pet insurance is medical insurance, for pets. Simple enough, right? If your pet has an accident, illness, or injury and needs veterinary care, pet insurance helps cover some or all the costs of treatment. It’s important to note that, most pet insurance policies don’t include coverage for routine care and exams.

But pet insurance, like other forms of insurance, is becoming more customizable. Pet owners can now choose between different deductibles, co-pays, and annual maximums that best fit their, and their pet’s, needs. Similarly, pet owners can choose between plans that cover accident and illness, and accident-only.

pets at work

Premiums typically cost between $10 to $100 a month. Premiums for dogs generally are more expensive than those for cats. The average cost of coverage for dog’s ranges from $30-$150 a month. Conversely, coverage for cats is usually between $10 and $50 a month.

There are a few fundamental differences between insurance for man and man’s best friend. The first difference is a clear majority of pet insurance plans don’t have an in-network provider. Because of this lack of network, pet owners can choose any veterinarian they want, or what’s closest, without having to worry about paying an out-of-network charge.

The second key difference is a majority of pet insurance policies rely on a system of reimbursement. This system means pet owners will still have to save cash for costly procedures, even if their pet is covered.

After paying for treatment, the pet owner files a claim and is reimbursed after that claim is approved. So, pet owners with pet insurance will still need to save money in case their furry friends experience a medical emergency.

Learn more about the benefits of pet insurance.


2. Pet Bereavement Leave

Pet bereavement leave is paid time off for an employee to mourn the death of their pet. Most employers, who provide pet bereavement leave, give between one and three days of paid leave for pet bereavement. This leave is designed to support employees through their loss without forcing them to use PTO, call in sick, or use unpaid leave.

dog in sweater

As previously mentioned, most pet owners consider their pets a member of their family. The closer your employees are to their pets, the more these animal’s deaths can impact them. Professor Sandra Barker, director of the Centre for Human-Animal Interaction at Virginia Commonwealth University, has done extensive research on this subject.

According to Barker, this research has shown that “Losing a beloved pet is certainly a significant loss,” she says. When a pet dies is lost or stolen, many of us feel a deep sense of loss and our lives suddenly seem turned upside down.”

Read more on pet bereavement leave.


3. Pawternity Leave

Pawternity leave, also known as fur-ternity leave, is paid time off for those who adopt, rescue, or buy a new dog or other pet. This leave gives new pet owners the chance to care for their new “family member” without burning through their PTO or having to worry about using unpaid leave.


4. Service Animals

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), defines a service animal as an animal that’s been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. These animals are trained to assist their owners with conditions ranging from visual and hearing impairments to PTSD and diabetes.

It’s important to know that service animals differ from emotional support, therapy, or companion animals. While these animals can help their owner, they aren’t trained to perform a specific job or task. So, under the ADA, a request to bring a service animal to work is processed as any other request for a reasonable accommodation. Emotional support animals, on the other hand, don’t qualify as a reasonable accommodation through the ADA.


Benefiting from Pets

Creating a policy that welcomes pets in the workplace, can give your organization a multitude of benefit. Pet-friendly environments can help to attract, retain, and support employees. We know, pet owners, more and more, see their pets as family members. Pet-friendly benefits can align company and employee values.


Additionally, a recent study conducted by Nationwide found 90 percent of workers in pet-friendly workplaces feel more connected to their company’s mission. This number is more significant than the 65 percent of employees in non-pet-friendly workplaces who feel the same.

The study also reported camaraderie and positive relationships between both supervisors and co-workers improved with pets in the office. Fifty-two and fifty-three percent of employees in pet-friendly environments claimed they had positive relationships with their supervisors and co-workers, respectively.

These numbers are a marked improvement over the 14 and 19 percent of respondents, in non-pet-friendly workplaces that said the same. Bringing pets into the office can improve your employees’ engagement and satisfaction with their jobs.

Finally, pet-friendly benefits help your employees, and conversely your business, through finances. Last year, U.S. pet owners spent a combined $17.07 billion on veterinary care alone. Every six seconds, a pet owner faces a veterinary bill of $5,000 or more.

While a $5,000 bill may not seem significant to some people, it is. For the average American, this sum is greater than their entire savings. According to a 2017 GoBankingRates survey, 69 percent of Americans have less than $5,000 in savings. So, for almost 70 percent of the country, a veterinary bill of $5,000 is financially crippling.

An employee benefit, such as pet insurance, can help reduce the financial risk tied to owning a pet. And reducing this financial risk helps your staff avoid financial stress, which can wreak havoc on an employee’s productivity. A 2017 Mercer survey discovered employers lose up to $250 billion a year due to financial stress.


The Wrap

Creating a pet-friendly environment doesn’t have to mean there will be a petting zoo in your office every day. Rather, it’s about implementing a policy, and employee benefits, that align with and support employees who own pets. These creatures are a crucial part of your workers’ lives. Treat them as such, and your business will reap the rewards.