Real Employment Law Advice

“Bring your pet to work” day – would you have one in your business?

At first sight this may seem like a completely bonkers idea but what better way, you may say, to bring a bit of joy and laughter into the workplace than opening your doors once a year to all creatures great and small?

Practicalities

Now obviously this idea is not going to be for all.  There will be businesses that simply cannot allow any animals within sniffing distance of the workplace.   You cannot, after all, have a schnauzer schmoozing around your restaurant or a terrier tearing across your workshop.   However, in an office-based environment, it could be a definite possibility – and why not?  Pets are well known to help reduce anxiety and stress and to generally improve feelings of happiness and contentment.   Having one day where your employees can bring in their furry companions could be a great mood-booster.  Not only that, but pets encourage social interaction. 

With so many employees only now returning to the office, having spent the last year or so on furlough or working from home, a “bring your pet to work day” could be just the ticket to encourage colleagues to break the ice and get to know each other again.  

How would we introduce a “bring your pet to work” day?

If you are still reading, this means you have not completely dismissed the idea of having a pet-tastic day at work.   However, you may be wondering how to get this idea off the ground.   There are, after all, many things to consider, not least that not all employees will share your enthusiasm.  For example, many people are allergic to pets and can have a serious reaction just by being in the same room as them.    Also, many people simply do not like pets or may have a fear of a certain type of pet (arachnophobia, ophidiophobia and musophobia to name a few).   Clearly issues such as these need to be taken seriously.  

The first step therefore is to ask your employees what they think about the idea.   If the majority would rather have a “wear what you like” or “bring your own cake into work” day, then you have probably saved yourself quite a bit of work and a large cleaning bill.   If some members of staff tell you that they have allergies or that they do not like/have a fear of certain pets then you need to consider how viable it is to continue with the proposal bearing in mind that, as an employer, you are under a duty to provide a safe working environment for all your staff. 

However, if the reaction is overall a positive one, and you can resolve any concerns raised by staff, then the next step is to consider whether you are going to set any ground rules for the big day.  I strongly recommend you do.

Size limitations

Some pets may fit in handbags, others may struggle to get through a door.  You should therefore think carefully about putting in place a rule that says that any pet that cannot climb stairs, get in an elevator or through a revolving door, should probably stay in the paddock. 

Restricting the type of pet

In a similar vein, you may want to restrict the type of pet or breed that can be brought into work.   This is particularly important if you have any member of staff who has a phobia or fear of certain animals/insects/amphibians/reptiles.   Refusing to allow a member of staff to bring in their adored pet alligator/rat/tarantula etc will need to be dealt with sensitively and considerately. 

pet

Toiletry habits

For the sake of your carpets and upholstery, you could insist on a rule that all pets that do not have control over their bodily functions should be kept in a suitably sized and secure cage/hutch/portable breathable container and only released under observation.    Whilst not wishing to single out any particular creature here, rabbits, guinea pigs, gerbils, hamsters, mice and rats have notoriously bad toiletry habits.  Snakes, I believe, are less regular but you may want to ask the owner to keep these similarly confined for other reasons (see above). 

Rules of Behaviour

This is an extremely difficult and controversial issue because many pet owners will say that their pet is very well behaved whilst simultaneously watching them pee over your carpet.   I know this because I have oft proclaimed that my dog has excellent recall whilst witnessing him disappear into the horizon.  It is also universally accepted that to suggest that someone’s pet is not well behaved, is a personal insult to the owner.   Nonetheless, you may have to insist on certain minimum standards of behaviour from any pets that are brought into the workplace.   Remember, of course, that any rules must be applied consistently.

To minimise the risk of behaviour issues arising, you could insist that all dogs be kept on a lead.   Cats – well good luck with getting a lead on a cat.     Other pets you may want to insist are kept in their cage/tank etc and not let loose at all or only under strict control lest they make a run/slither for it.  

Here are some examples of behaviour that you may want to declare unacceptable (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Incessant barking, yelping, crying, miaowing, squeaking, chirping or other loud or persistent noise.
  • Fighting.
  • Making really bad smells.
  • Toileting anywhere other than in designated areas.
  • Stealing food/ packed lunches.
  • Stealing generally.
  • Chewing cables. 
  • Using the office floor as a racetrack.

You also perhaps ought to give some thought to what the consequences will be of any breach of the above rules.   Providing replacement sandwiches may be appropriate where packed lunches have been snaffled.  In most cases, however, a warning by one’s owner will be sufficient to prevent any further misbehaviour.  

Good luck!

Rules aside, a “bring your pet to work” day can be a great way to boost -morale among your workforce and – who knows – you may decide to make it a permanent feature in your workplace calendar.  Feline Fridays anyone?    

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

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The information contained in this blog post is provided for guidance and is a snapshot of the law at the time it is written. It is provided for your information only and should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice that it specific to your particular circumstances.

The guidance should not be relied upon in any decision making process. It is strongly recommended that you seek advice before taking action.


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