‘Fur-ternity Leave’: A New Benefit For Workers With New Pets

August 27, 2018 by Josh Hrala

As anyone with a pet can tell you, bringing home a new member of the family can require a lot of attention, which is why Nina Hale, a Minneapolis-based marketing company, is adding a new benefit for its employees: ‘fur-ternity leave,’ the ability to take time off from work (or work remotely) to help acclimate a new pet.

Yup, you heard that right! The company will allow flexible work arrangements for new pet owners, giving them the ability to be with their new furry (or feathery, or scaly) new family member while they become accustomed to their new surroundings.

The new policy came about after senior account manager Connor McCarthy finalized the adoption of a golden-doodle puppy named Bentley.

“Worried about Bentley, then just 2 months old, being home alone, Mr. McCarthy sent a request to his boss and Ms. McMenimen: Could he work from home the first week to help Bentley get used to his new surroundings, including a kennel, and learn to go to the bathroom outside?” reports Matthew Haag from The New York Times.

“It can be a stressful situation going from its original home to a new home,” McCarthy told Haag.

To his surprise, he immediately got the okay, allowing him to work from home for a week to help Bentley get used to his new home (and to train him where to go to the bathroom).

McCarthy reports that the first week was spent taking Bentley outside about once every hour to go to the bathroom. Even with that frequency, a few accidents happened. Bentley also spent time in a kennel to get used to that environment as well.

“It was really, really nice to be there while I’m working to transition him,” McCarthy said.

Without having time to help Bentley adjust to his new home, it’s safe to say that Bentley would have had a tougher time, which would have weighed on McCarthy, possibly distracting him from work.

The move to offer pet-based time off makes sense because employers are slowly – but surely – figuring out that the key to employee benefits lies within work-life balance. The days of trying to keep people tether to their desks inside the company office are coming to an end.

“This is kind of a no-brainer,” Nina Hale VP Allison McMenimen told Haag.

“The idea of offering benefits that just help keep employees at the office, that’s over.”

The Times reports that other companies have recently implemented similar benefits. One such company, mParticle – a data company in New York – offers employees ‘paw-ternity,’ a paid, two-week leave when an employee adopts a rescue dog.

“For a lot of people, their pets are their children,” McMenimen continued. “Our employees are at all different stages of their lives.”

On that note, while many forward-thinking companies are realizing that work-life balance is important and can directly impact a business’s bottom line, the fact remains that many traditional companies have a lot of catch up to do.

For example, while some companies are allowing employees time off for their pets, one in four new moms go back to work in under 10 days after childbirth, according to USA Today.

A 2017 report by WorldatWork and Mercer LLC found that just 38 percent of US employers offer parental leave to their employees with an average time off of just 4.1 weeks, according to Bloomberg BNA.

This means that, for the most part, new parents are given just two weeks more time off to bond with their newborn children than some companies offer employees to bond with their dogs.

According to NPR, “out of 193 countries in the United Nations, only a small handful do not have a national paid parental leave law: New Guinea, Suriname, a few South Pacific island nations, and the United States.”

While the new ‘fur-ternity’ benefit underlines a bigger issue in the American workforce – the lack of parental leave (or just leave because of life-related issues in general) – it’s great to see that more and more companies are realizing that employees perform better, work harder, and enjoy working more when an employer acknowledges that they are a person outside of work.

When employees can get the things done that matter in their lives – whether that is house training their new pet, taking a much needed vacation, or – most importantly – bonding with their new child – they stay at organizations longer, are more productive, and live better lives.

Hopefully, as time goes on, more companies will realize the power of these benefits.

Josh Hrala

Josh Hrala

Josh is an HR journalist and ghostwriter who's been covering outplacement and offboarding for over six years. Before pivoting to the HR world, he was a science journalist whose work can be found in Popular Science, ScienceAlert, The Huffington Post, Cracked, Modern Notion, and more.

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