'Pet-ernity' leave: Australian pet owners demand workplace leave to care for new pets

French bulldog puppy looking up on gray background
Photo credit: Getty

A pet boom has seen an increase of animal adoptions in Australia by 40 percent during the past year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting a push for 'pet-ernity'. 

Australian pet owners are calling for businesses to implement pet policies similar to those of parents and children. 

With more pets than people in Australia, there is increasing pressure on employers to acknowledge the role domesticated companions play in people's lives by allowing paid days off to spend time with and care for furry friends. 

A survey conducted by Australian pet company PetCulture found a whopping 81 percent of pet owners are asking their workplace for flexibility when it comes to caring for their pets, yet 60 percent don't feel supported to do so. 

Two-thirds of respondents also said they saw their pet as a family member.

PetCulture has introduced a pet-ernity policy for staff which includes two days of paid leave to introduce new pets to families, or for other occasions like caring for sick pets.

The company's CEO Simon Smith believes Australian businesses should have similar policies or schemes in place to better allow employees to take care of their pets. 

PetCulture is running a petition on its website demanding legislation around pet-ernity leave.

The New Zealand financial services firm FlexiGroup has introduced an employment policy which allows for up to five days leave when a worker introduces a new cat or dog to the family home. 

If an animal dies, they can take a days' paid bereavement leave. 

Chief executive Chris Lamers told Stuff the policy is designed to help pet owners balance their work and home lives.

"When someone's pet dies, or they get a new pet, it can be quite life-changing," he said, adding that the company's "culture is very animal-friendly".