Around half of UK households own a pet, according to the RSPCA. So why is there not a specific legal right to time off for animal-related issues, for example to look after a sick pet? Susan Dennehy looks at the potential for “pawternity” leave, and four other types of leave that employers might offer employees in the future.
Time off work: resources for employers
1. Pawternity leave
“Pawternity” leave, or “peternity” leave, gives employees time off to care for a pet.
For instance, an employee could take leave to help a new pet settle in, visit the vet or deal with a pet falling ill or dying.
Some employers already offer this type of leave, although it tends to be on an informal basis and in smaller family businesses.
Some employers also encourage employees to bring their pets to work.
The advantages of allowing pets in the workplace are well-documented and can benefit employers too, as it can lead to employees taking fewer days off sick.
A policy of allowing working animals, such as a guide dog, into the workplace is likely to be required as a reasonable adjustment for a disabled person.
Pets will need to be carefully vetted (pun intended!), of course, to make sure they know the standard of behaviour that is expected of them in the workplace.
2. Meternity leave
“Meternity” leave is a term coined by author Meghann Foye, in her 2016 novel of the same name.
Instead of taking time off for a baby, meternity leave gives child-free women the opportunity of taking time off, for instance to write that book everyone has inside them, or for life-enhancing travel.
Meternity leave, which is similar to sabbatical leave, could be attractive to employers that wish to attract more women into the workplace.
There is no reason why this type of leave could not also be extended to men.
3. Period leave
Earlier this year, there was scepticism when Bristol firm Coexist, which has a largely female workforce, introduced a policy of period leave for women.
However, its policy is not as silly as it may sound.
In Powell v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the employer accepted that menstrual syndrome was a disability within the Equality Act 2010.
When a condition such as severe period pain, or dysmenorrhea to give it its proper medical name, falls under the equality legislation, employers are required to make reasonable adjustments.
Some countries, such as Indonesia, already offer “menstruation leave”.
Time off work: what new types of leave are on the way?
The Government proposes to introduce shared grandparental leave, which will allow grandparents of new babies time off work to care for their grandchildren.
There are also plans to give employees who work for large employers the right to three days’ paid volunteer leave each year.
4. Marriage leave
Getting married is one of life’s most stressful events, but employers are not required to provide employees with time off to tie the knot.
Most employees are likely to be faced with the prospect of having to save up annual leave before the big day to make the necessary arrangements to get married.
In contrast, in Greece, employees are entitled to five days’ paid leave to get married (or six working days if employees work a six-day week).
In Argentina, employers provide employees with a whopping 10 days’ leave to get married.
The Czech Republic goes one further and offers time off for the wedding of a child or a parent.
5. Bereavement leave
All employees are entitled to leave for dependants. This allows employees to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off, for example to arrange or attend a funeral of a dependant or to provide assistance when a dependant falls ill.
However, there is no outright statutory entitlement to take paid time off on compassionate or bereavement grounds.
Some employers have a policy of providing bereavement or compassionate leave on a contractual basis but this is usually limited to close relatives and confined to two or three days.
Where bereavement or compassionate leave is provided, employers’ policies are often poorly communicated.
Consequently, employees may not be clear about what is expected of them, for instance in terms of the amount of time off allowed and whether or not annual leave or unpaid leave can be taken if necessary.
A private members bill introduced by Will Quince in September 2016, the Parental Bereavement Leave (Statutory entitlement) Bill, aims to provide bereaved parents statutory time off on compassionate grounds.