Employer offers 'pawrental' leave

'We're recognizing that a family can consist of a fur baby and her number-one human'

Employer offers 'pawrental' leave

When Talk Shop management started to notice a lot of employees listed pet ownership as a future personal goal, that got leaders of the communications agency thinking.

“It’s not always a nuclear family with two children and cisgender straight couples: a family really can consist of anything that a team member wants to make it, so we’re recognizing that a family can consist of a fur baby and her number-one human,” says Natalie Martin, vice-president at Talk Shop in Vancouver.

The firm recently instituted “pawrental leave” for its 60-person team, with offices in B.C. and Ontario.

“We said, ‘My goodness, this is a way that we can actually roll something out that would be helpful, to show support to them,’” she says.

“As our team members open their hearts and homes to accommodate a four-legged friend, we really believe that’s cause for celebration, and greater workplace support so that’s why we rolled this out.”

The policy was formally enacted on Aug. 26, which was National Dog Day.

Talk Shop has always been a “family-first” employer, according to Martin.

“While we’re continuing to celebrate working families, we want to make sure that we’ve formally recognized that, honestly, not all families take the same shape,” she says.

Read more: Working from home offers workers the ideal opportunity to take care of pets.

What’s being offered?

The policy — which only applies to dog or cat owners who permanently adopt pets — allows for three consecutive days off per year, with a further two days, unpaid, to be provided immediately following the three paid days for those who request it.

“It’s really about allowing team members to take time off around the adoption of a new pet and we’re able to grant three paid days for you to get accustomed to new pet ownership,” says Martin.

Reaction to the new policy runs both ways, she says. “There’s some people that roll their eyes at this: ‘This is silly,” but for others, it has caught on quickly — within hour of launching, three team members had already started putting together their notice for the pawrental leave.

“It’s not that expensive to do and so why not do something that really makes team members smile?”

Read more: Being a pet-friendly workplace offers many advantages for employers.

Policies matter

And this won’t be the last innovative way for Talk Shop to provide additional support, says Martin.

“We’re going to start to look at some of our other policies that we want to be rolling out around how other families do take shape and seeing how else we can [provide] support. It’s not just about supporting a traditional mother, father, few-children type of family; it is going to be supporting all types of families.”

The act of writing this down and including it in formal policy documents truly illustrates an employer’s good intent and should be practised by all employers.

“Make it a clear formal policy because then you have messaging attached to it, and then you have something that people can approach and can read about on their own when they read through our employee handbook. It’s nice to have this actually written somewhere so that it’s not just assumed,” says Martin.

“I think you’re just probably going to see a big spike of pet ownership happening over from the Talk Shop team.”

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