Bereavement Leave for Pets

Fur or Against?

This story has been debated everywhere from 
the TV, legal forums and even in Parliament!

Should an employee be entitled to take time off from work, on bereavement leave following the passing of a pet? This is the question that has been provoked after eighteen year old Emma McNulty was sacked from her position in a fast food restaurant after she asked for the day off to grieve for her dog, yet she was expected to turn up for her shift.

Interestingly, the employee claimed that she was then sent an email stating that she had been “fired for gross misconduct”. This is despite any investigation, disciplinary hearing or impartial panel. Of course, at present, all there is to base the [facts] of this case is in tabloid reports. However, the procedure that is alleged to have been followed (subject to the employee length of service) appears to have been incorrect.

On the information that the public are aware of, it would be suggested that Emma should have been invited to a meeting of concern to discuss this after she returned or, if the company felt it warranted a disciplinary hearing, then that avenue and subsequent outcomes could have been explored. The employee could have been suffering with depression or anxiety following the loss of her pet.

Although, we are not debating whether bereavement leave for a pet is a legal entitlement (it is not). The loss of the pet could have had a corollary effect on the employee which may have given rise to a protected characteristic (disability).

As a responsible employer, it would be down to common sense as to how this case and any similar issues should be handled. Ask yourself, would the employee be any use at work on this day in this situation. It is understandable that an employer would not want to set a precedent which is against their policy on bereavement leave. However, accepting that the employee will be off this day and arranging an informal welfare meeting or return to work would be highly encouraged and reasonable in the circumstances.

Of course, everyone will have a different opinion on this and so too will employers. Irrespective, it will be interesting to watch how much further debate this issue attracts and whether the petition encourages enough signatures for this to be debated in Parliament!

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