SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — Pet owners know the grief from losing their companion can be as real as losing any family member. Now, a growing number of companies are acknowledging this reality by offering pet bereavement leave.
If you’re not a “pet person” you might think taking a day off when Fido or Fluffy dies is just silly. But if your household is one of the over 50 million in the U.S. that own a cat or dog, a day off may be just what you need to get a hold of yourself and your grief.
Human resources expert John Decoteau said that many companies already allow employees to quietly take vacation time or a personal day when a pet dies. But Decoteau notes some employers are giving paid pet loss bereavement leave as part of an employee’s overall benefit package. “In California where I think the love of our pets in very public, and much more pronounced than it was probably as little as ten years ago, I think companies will probably call it a separate type of leave,” said Decoteau. “Not because they are necessarily doing something different but because it also becomes a recruitment tool.”
Decoteau’s firm, Society for Human Resource Management, noted that Palo Alto-based software company VMware offers pet bereavement, as do Boston-based human resource firm Maxwell Health, San Francisco-based Klimpton Hotel group, and Seattle-based pet health insurer Trupanion.
Ice cream maker Ben and Jerry’s told KPIX that while they don’t have a formal policy around pet bereavement leave, the company would grant it as needed to those who have lost a pet.
Phil C’de Baca, the owner of Pet’s Rest pet cemetery in Colma said he still grieves for the dogs he’s lost and the idea of getting a day off to mourn a lost pet strikes a chord.
“It makes all the difference in the world,” said C’de Baca. “I think that could be helpful for people. You need to take a little time to deal with the reality of what is going on around you.”
It seems employers are catching up to what pet owners have known for a long time. Losing a pet is tough. A 2009 study in the journal Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic found that nearly one third of all people who lose a pet experience sadness and grief for 6 months and beyond.
Decoteau said employers are beginning to recognize that an employee in that kind of emotional pain may not be able to be very productive at work at all.
“As business leaders, people who work for you, they are members of your team. You have invested heavily in them, they are people that you work with each and every day,” said Decoteau. “And when people are in pain you want to help them.”