Paw­ter­nity leave: a sign of progress

The Guardian Weekly - - Comment & Debate - Paul Fleck­ney

Any adult who’s had a pet will know the feel­ing. You’ve just got home with Mog­gie/Fido/Scargill, and all you want to do is hang out to­gether for a few days, do some bond­ing, in­tro­duce your new an­i­mal to the idea of not piss­ing on ev­ery­thing in sight. In­stead, the next day you have to trudge into work to hang out with other hu­man be­ings. Ugh.

En­ter “paw­ter­nity leave”. Es­sen­tially, em­ploy­ees are al­lowed a lit­tle paid leave so that they can spend time with their new pet and set­tle them in. It’s on the up, and it’s a good thing.

Pet leave, as I’ll call it, ap­pears to have been pi­o­neered by the Brew­dog brew­ery, and Mars, which owns Whiskas and Pedi­gree. The Ken­nel Club says the first 16 weeks of a puppy’s life goes a long way to pro­duc­ing a well-bal­anced, so­cia­ble dog, and that re­quest­ing time off would be “sen­si­ble” for the owner and “ex­tremely ben­e­fi­cial” to the puppy, who can be in­ten­sively trained, ac­cli­ma­tised and so­cialised.

It’s no sur­prise that com­pa­nies in dog-nuts Man­hat­tan are lead­ing the way with pet leave. Some even of­fer com­pas­sion­ate leave when an em­ployee’s pet dies, which is ex­tra­or­di­nary con­sid­er­ing ma­ter­nity leave isn’t even re­quired by law in the US.

Com­pas­sion­ate leave for pets might sound like gooey non­sense, but it merely ac­knowl­edges the truth of how strongly many peo­ple feel to­wards their an­i­mals. Add to this the in­creas­ing pop­u­lar­ity of flex­i­ble work­ing hours and work­ing from home, and maybe we’re work­ing to­wards a less rigid work­ing struc­ture that ben­e­fits every­one – in­clud­ing, when it comes to pet leave, our furry friends at home.

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