The Push for Employee Pet Bereavement Leave This Pet Remembrance Day

man holding dog collar and looking sad at work

Ahead of Pet Remembrance Day this Friday 5th July, studies show that the grief of losing a pet is comparable to losing a person. Still, when it comes to pet loss, many employees are afraid to ask for time off to grieve because of the stigma associated with pet bereavement and the lack of support they may get in the workplace around that loss. At the same time, unsupported grief in the workplace can cost companies more than $225 billion (£173.25 billion) every year. Here, ERIKA SINNER, author of ‘Pets Are Family’ on why things need to change.

Pets can impact employees’ wellbeing and overall productivity. Data shows that being a pet guardian can prevent or improve depression. Culture is not just a buzzword but critical to success. Companies are focusing on Chief of Heart Officers and even Heads of Listening, but not all companies have the resources to bring on a full position, and you don’t have to. It could start with compassionate policies like pet bereavement leave. In 2023, I lost my beloved dog Kingston. Although my company has always included pet bereavement leave, actually taking this leave, I realised the stigma attached. I worried my colleagues wouldn’t understand or dismiss my grief as an overreaction to “just a dog.” This leave was crucial for me and inspired me to advocate for similar compassionate policies in other organisations.

Giving your employees time off to grieve shows you care about them. If a whole day off isn’t possible, at least help them reprioritise their tasks to manage their workload and acknowledge their grief.

It’s about providing time to readjust, which ensures continued quality of work and benefits the individual, their manager, and the company’s reputation. According to research, companies with pet bereavement policies have happier employees and higher retention rates. That’s good news for a company’s bottom line because data shows that replacing someone on your team could cost 3-4x as much as your current employee. Employers can significantly enhance their workforce’s relationships by showing empathy and understanding through policies like pet bereavement leave, leading to emotional and economic benefits. Each generation has a unique approach to their careers, often feeling they have worked harder or put in more time than the new generation. There is a common belief that others must endure the same challenges to truly earn their benefits.

Compassionate policies like pet bereavement leave allow teams to plan for absences, which is far more manageable than dealing with the higher costs and disruptions of turnover mentioned earlier.

However, this mindset overlooks an important truth: every generation feels this way about the one before. Headlines proclaiming, “Nobody wants to work anymore!” have appeared as recently as 2022, echoing similar sentiments from 1981 and the 1940s.

This recurring theme highlights a disconnect between managerial expectations and evolving workforce attitudes. The next generation of the workforce is searching for employers who see them as human beings. They will look for signals they are valued as whole persons. Some may worry about the disruption caused by an employee’s absence, but the reality is that any absence impacts workflow. Planning is key. Compassionate policies like pet bereavement leave allow teams to plan for absences, which is far more manageable than dealing with the higher costs and disruptions of turnover mentioned earlier.

Some of you reading this might think, “All this sounds great, but that’s not going to help me hit my numbers and keep the shareholders happy, is it?” I want to acknowledge that it is clear your leadership has let you down multiple times, and you haven’t been part of a culture truly driven by empathy. This is your chance to make a difference.

The best strategic plan doesn’t happen without execution, and execution happens through employees – human beings. So, we have to pay attention. And for those of you grieving the loss of a pet now, in my book, ‘Pets Are Family’, I share resources, but here are a few:

  • Take the time to learn about the grieving process and allow yourself the space to experience your emotions. It’s important to acknowledge that your feelings are valid.
  • Allow yourself to cry, but also remember to maintain basic self-care like eating and sleeping. This is a crucial time to rely on your social circle.
  • Talk to family and friends about what you’re going through. If you find it overwhelming, consider speaking to a therapist or consulting your doctor.
  • Honour your pet’s memory in a way that feels meaningful to you. This could be planting a tree or a flower or setting up an altar with their ashes and favourite photos. Another comforting act is donating to a local animal shelter in their name, which helps other animals in need. These tributes can provide comfort and a sense of continuing connection to your beloved pet.

Erika Sinner, CEO of Directorie, is more than just a leader; she’s a catalyst for change in the realm of empathy at work. Her book, ‘Pets Are Family’, serves as a first step in raising awareness about the necessity of such leave. Erika’s mission extends beyond policy updates; it’s about bringing more empathy into the workplace and recognising the shared human experiences that unite us all.

Third photo by Jonas Vincent on Unsplash

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