Amazingly one-in-ten offices in the UK permit pets in the workplace if an employee is unable to find care for their animal during working hours.
Overwhelmingly the pet of choice is a dog.
Companies point to the positives of allowing an animal in the workplace, notably improvement in staff morale and an uptake in staff health as employees vie to take the pet for lunchtime walks. Pets are fun and can create a welcome distraction from burgeoning workloads, offering space for workers to think clearly. As such, companies are increasingly allowing dogs in the workplace and under desks without really considering the implications, particularly concerns over health and safety, which threaten to spin out of control as more and more pets are found in the workplace. Research into the number of pets in the workplace found virtually no businesses have carried out a risk assessment before allowing pets on their premises, with most cases receiving little or informal approval from mangers.
Pets in the workplace pose a number of potential problems, including:
- Some employers might be scared or allergic of animals
- Pets and their accessories – such as beds and leads – can prove to be dangerous hazards around the office
- Pets can bite, particularly bored pets. The financial penalties resulting from this could cripple the business
- Who will clean up the pet’s faeces?
- Pet food should not be stored with food intended for humans.
Remarkably there are no specific laws stopping employees from bringing pets into the workforce. However, despite the lack of guidance on the subject, it is wise for an employer to, at the very least, investigate the dependencies resulting in a pet in the workplace. What is the benefit from the arrangement? Or is the reason due to the owner’s poor organisation? Can alternative arrangements be made? Once the reasons are clear, and positives are weighed against negatives, an employer should draw up a pet in the workplace policy that upholds health and safety regulation and take into consideration all employees, not just the pet owner.