Why Companies Should Have a Paid Pet Bereavement Policy
Companies Should Allow an Employee Time to Grieve
Today you had to put your faithful dog Murphy to sleep. He was 14 years old and suffered miserably from emphysema for the past two years. The doctor said he would only get worse and that he was suffering. There was no medication the doctor could give him. The prognostic for the dog was a recommendation to put him out of his misery. So, after you agreed, the doctor leaves you alone so you could give Murphy your final farewell.
You hugged Murphy while cold tears streamed down your face. He looked at you with absolute trust. Did he know that you were about to make one of the most painful decisions of your life? Would he forgive you? What was clear was that he didn’t feel well. Even in your arms he could barely wag his tail.
You were left alone so you could mourn his loss. You cried hopelessly at the clinic. You cried all the way home, and you cried yourself to sleep.
The next day, you called in sick. You feel lost without Murphy. He was family to you. You cried all day until you could barely breathe. After sleeping for a while, you woke up and decided to remove all of Murphy’s belongings. You can’t stand to see any reminders of him. There’s an empty place in your heart not seeing Murphy follow you from room to room, wagging his tail with pleasure.
What Should the Company Do?
One of your employees calls in to say that her dog had to be put to sleep the day before. She will not be at work today. Everyone at the company knows about Murphy. The employee talks about him all the time. She has pictures of the dog on her bulletin board.
Still, as her supervisor, you are annoyed that she is taking the day off. There is important work needed to be done. You give your condolences, and then tell her she can either take the day off without pay, or use a sick day. She decides to take the sick day.
Those who have never had a pet can never imagine the pain caused by a pet’s death. The loss is indescribable, because there is nothing you can do. The two of you have shared many good, bad, and sad moments together for years. No one is ever prepared for a pet to die. The pain is more intense if you have to put the pet to sleep. It is an emotional event similar to the death of a close relative.
An employee should be allowed to take sick time for the death of a pet. By not allowing a sick day to include that of a pet, a business owner forces the employee to lie. By making the day applicable as a sick day, the business doesn’t have to pay for an additional day off work.
It really is an untenable situation when an employer insists that a bereaved employee come to work. He or she will show up in a state of shock, helplessness and hopelessness. There may be hidden tears, and the employee tends to be distracted. Would a company rather have the employee come into the office puffy faced, crying on and off during the day?
In addition, the employee isn’t going to do too much work on that day. It is unpleasant and bad for the morale of the other employees to have to see such misery. Send him or her home with pay and give the employee a chance to mourn the loss.
There are companies who have changed their bereavement policy to include pets. It is for the very reasons stated here, and for the protection of the company. A bereft employee is liable to make mistakes at the job. Companies should add the death of a pet to the bereavement policy, or allow the employee the sick day. Either way, allowing the employee to take a day off to grieve is a good business policy.