Working like a dog? Literally! The Pro’s and Con’s of bringing pets to the workplace
- Employment Law
- 22nd Nov 2022
Gareth Matthews, Head of Employment, considers the recent trend for pets in the workplace. Employee Perks – Pets at Work? Pet loving employees (and most commonly dog lovers) have increasingly been voicing a desire to bring their pet to work. Indeed, dog ownership radically increased during lockdown and now that huge numbers of […]
By Zara GreenMLP Law
Gareth Matthews, Head of Employment, considers the recent trend for pets in the workplace.
Employee Perks – Pets at Work?
Pet loving employees (and most commonly dog lovers) have increasingly been voicing a desire to bring their pet to work. Indeed, dog ownership radically increased during lockdown and now that huge numbers of employees are no longer working exclusively from home, a shortage of doggy day care centres and walkers, coupled with the increased cost of such services, means that pet-owning employees are much less keen to leave their pets unattended at home, whilst they are at work.
Whilst such a request may previously have been dismissed out of hand by employers, some are considering the potential benefits – and possible risks – of accommodating employees and their pets. Gareth Matthews, Head of Employment at MLP considers this relatively new phenomenon.
Disability discrimination and pets in the workplace
At present, there is no blanket legal obligation on employers, to allow employees to bring their pet to work. There are some circumstances, however, where it might be necessary in law to allow a pet to attend with its owner, as a reasonable adjustment under the Equality Act 2010. This would be applicable where the pet is in attendance in order to support an employee with a physical or mental impairment, such as a guide dog for a blind or visually impaired employee. There is also increasing use of assistance dogs to help with a variety of health issues, such as hearing difficulties, diabetes and epilepsy.
Furthermore, some individuals with mental health issues advocate the use of emotional support dogs, to help reduce the negative effects of such an illness.
Employers should treat any request by an employee to bring their pet to work on health grounds sensitively and cautiously.
How employers should respond
Where such a request is made, the employee should be asked to identify if it is made on health grounds and, if so, to explain the basis for how having their pet at work will assist with overcoming the difficulties associated with the health condition. The employer should then consider the request in the context of reasonable adjustments, required under the Equality Act 2010.
Employers have a duty to maintain the health and safety of all of its employees (not just the person making the request), and it is important to assess that the dog is well-behaved and will not cause problems for other employees. For example, if another employee has a dog allergy, an employer needs to consider the effect on the other person (someone with a severe allergy could themselves be classed as disabled).
Employers could implement a trial period before committing to a policy for pets in the workplace.
Some employees may simply be making the request for reasons of convenience and/or morale and employers may wish to consider this in a positive light in the context of the current cost of living, in a way that does not impose significant costs on the business.
Benefits to pets at work?
In a challenging recruitment market, some employers are looking for an edge to make them more attractive to new employees and pets in the workplace may be a novel way of doing just that. Before any pets are permitted, however, an employer should set out clear guidelines in writing about expectations regarding pet behaviour and conduct, to prevent any members of staff from being driven barking mad!
If you would like advice from the Employment team at MLP Law in respect of any of the issues raised here or more generally, please do not hesitate to get in touch on 0161 926 9969 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow us on Twitter @HRHeroUK.
About the expert
Stephen is the Owner of MLP Law and leads our Commercial, IP and Dispute Resolution teams which provide advice on all aspects of the law relating to mergers, acquisitions, financing, re-structuring, complex commercial contracts, standard trading terms, share options, shareholder and partnership agreements, commercial dispute resolution, joint venture and partnering arrangements, IT and Technology law, Intellectual Property, EU and competition law, Brexit and GDPR.
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