Can an employee take bereavement leave following the death of their pet?Posted in : Seamus Says - Employment Law Discussion on 5 January 2018
Q. "If an employee phones in stating a death in the family, which turns out to be a cat she has had for 20 years, what can you do?"
Keywords: Bereavement Policy; Pet;
Scott: I had a cat for 15 years and I cried bottles when they died. That was my best friend growing up. You better come up with a good answer here, Seamus.
Seamus: Yeah. Again, the position comes back to usually within the handbook the employers have, it will cover off circumstances for death, not to say it's always for people and for humans. I think that you have to go back to the issue here. If the person feels that they can't attend, is it because they're too unwell to attend work and then it's sickness?
I always thought there's a balance there to be struck if it's one day, it's fine, but if it starts to stress into a longer period of time, equally I could also foresee where someone maybe does become unwell because of the death. Maybe they live alone and maybe they sink into ill health through depression because of the loss. They really would have to be getting medical evidence, occupational health reports.
Scott: You certainly wouldn't have the right to time off under any bereavement policy unless it's been built into the contract.
Seamus: Certainly, the legislation doesn't cover for the circumstances.
Scott: There was a move in California, I remember. They introduced paw-ternity leave, which was for animals that had died. People do get attached. My dog was put down this weekend. You know I talked to you earlier before we broadcast. It was a very sad thing, but not as sad as my cat dying many years ago. I've matured and become hard since then.
Seamus: It could be that with employers and proven employee relations that there maybe will be something in the handbook out there that will cover that, but nothing that I've come across to date.
Scott: You still have to be sensitive. There are people who are very attached to their animals. Just be sensitive. Otherwise, they end up becoming demotivated, "You don't care about me. You don't understand."
Seamus: It's not great for the overall relationship.
More on Policies & Procedures
- Employee Handbook: Overview, Status and Purpose
- Commercial Law for Employers: Entitlement to Annual Leave
- Email/System Access for Long-term Sick Employees; Dismissal During the Probationary Period; Dealing with Sickness Patterns
- Celia Luisa Pereira Da Costa v Summer Garden Salads Limited 
- Can an employee claim constructive dismissal if a work colleague makes a discriminatory comment to them and the employer fails to discipline the colleague?
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