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It’s a Dog’s Life – Should I Grant Paid Time Off to Care for Pets?

Here at FPM, we’re no stranger to weird and wonderful queries, so we thought we’d take the bull by the horns (or the dog by the collar) and look at one of the more unusual cases we’ve seen recently… 

In October last year, the Italian Courts made the headlines by ruling that a woman was entitled to claim sick pay for the time she took off to take care of her sick dog. Does this mean that practice managers in the UK should take similar action in the face of a similar claim from an employee?

The unnamed academic who brought the case works at Rome's La Sapienza University and claimed that the university should put her absence down to "serious or family personal reasons" when she took two days off to care for Cucciola, a 12-year-old English Setter, after the dog underwent surgery.

She was supported by lawyers from Italy's Anti-Vivisection League (LAV) who argued that she had no choice but to take the time off as a provision in Italian law says people who abandon an animal to "grave suffering" can be jailed for a year and fined up to €10,000 (£9,000).

However, sick pay entitlement in the UK refers only to the health of the person who is employed by you and not other ‘family members’ - regardless of species.

Dealing with time off for dependents’ leave is based on Section 57A of the Employment Rights Act 1996. This entitles all employees to take a reasonable amount of time off work "to take action which is necessary" in relation to the care of certain dependants.

Although there is no service qualification for this right, it is available to all employees, both full and part time. A dependant is defined as the spouse, civil partner, child or parent of the employee, plus any person who lives at the same house (other than as a lodger, tenant, boarder or employee) and any other person who would reasonably rely on the employee for assistance or arrangements for care in the event of illness or injury.  There is no right of the employee to be paid for this time off.

You’ll note that key word is ‘person’... other species of family member, however important they may be to us, are not covered by the current legislation. However, there is nothing preventing you as a manager from allowing employees to take last-minute annual leave or unpaid leave to care of sick or injured animals. 

Are you dealing with a tricky HR issue? First Practice Management members can contact Lisa for support with their queries via our email helpline at hrhelp@firstpracticemanagement.co.uk. Don’t forget you can also download a range of HR-related policies and procedures from our Document Library.

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Comments

Valerie Leach 12/01/2018

We allow for emergency time off for pets and bereavement time


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