Staff take more time off for ill pets than relatives
BRITISH people are more likely to take time off work to care for their sick pets than their partners or relatives, new research out today claimed.
The study revealed that dog owners took 2.7 million working days off over the past two years to care for poorly animals.
Of the UK’s estimated 5.4 million dog owners, 10 per cent have missed at least five days of work and 5 per cent have taken two weeks. But the same compassion is not applied to sick partners or relatives - the same owners took only 1.08 million days off in the same period to care for them.
More than half - 55 per cent - said they paid more attention to their ill dog than a partner in the same straits, while 49 per cent confessed they worried more when their dog was sick than when their partner was.
The survey by Direct Line Pet Insurance also revealed that just over half of owners, 53 per cent, have bought presents to "cheer up" their animal when it seemed depressed. More than one in nine have bought their pet a new bed as a treat to make them feel better and 8 per cent have given them the full run of the house to raise their spirits.
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said pets have a "very important" role in the family.
"These figures do seem very high, but we have to also put into context how important a family pet is within the structure of the family," she said.
"Given that our animals are dependent on us as owners for care we can see why it does happen. Our partners can talk and tell us how good or bad they feel, but with our animals it is very much a guessing game.
"Any pet owner has to be sensible because they have to consider the needs of their employer, but it is also the legal requirement for an owner to provide veterinary treatment to a sick animal."
The report also points out to critics who do not own a dog and think it is "odd" to stay off work to look after a pet, that remedies may be a lot cheaper than medical treatment.
Up to 14 per cent of dogs need treatment costing as much as 1,500 a year and 17 per cent of canines make seven or more visits to the vet each year.
Allan Hogarth, CBI Scotland’s employment expert, said taking days off work involved trust between employers and employees. "Employers understand that employees can request for time off for a variety of reasons, but employees also have to understand that they need to carry out the role of the job they were employed to do," he said.
"The lead can be stretched too far sometimes, but usually employees are mature and they realise that if they are off work then inevitably one of their colleagues will have extra work to do to cover that absence."
Russell Bradley, an employment lawyer for DLA Piper in Edinburgh, said taking time off work to nurse sick animals was "the most ridiculous thing" he had every heard.
"As an employer I have never been asked for time off to look after pets," he said. "I have also dealt with employers for 18 years in this job and I have never been asked about this subject either.
"Any employee who wants time off needs a good reason, which is usually their own illness, occasionally to care for a dependant, or a death. The law sees these all as reasonable time off. It is also down to the employer’s discretion.
"In my experience it’s unusual in the extreme for employees to ask for time off to look after their sick pets. If an employee needed to take a pet to the vet and was willing to work later at the end of the day then that is one thing, but just to spend all day looking after a pet with a cold does not win my sympathy.
"It also tells a lot about British society if people are more willing to look after pets than their partners."
Chris Price, from Direct Line, said: "Dogs are viewed as part of the family, so protecting their health and wellbeing is very important. Unfortunately, they can’t vocalise what’s wrong with them in the same way humans can, so it’s very worrying when they get ill.
"As a result if they are unwell, it’s vital to get them checked out by an expert and have a vet advise on the best form of treatment."
Researchers questioned 769 people for the study.
WOULD YOUR EMPLOYER GIVE YOU TIME OFF?
A BANK of Scotland spokesman said: "If our employees need to take time off to look after a sick pet then they can. In our experience when this happens colleagues tend to work back the time."
A Kwik-Fit Financial Services spokeswoman said: "We provide our employees with two lifestyle days each year, which means that they can phone up in the morning and take the day off. This could be used to deal with an emergency, such as a sick pet."
An Edinburgh council spokeswoman said: "The council does not have a policy for employees taking special leave to care for a sick pet and have never been asked to approve time off for that purpose. However, we consider that our existing annual and flexi-leave provision could cover such circumstances."
A spokesman for Edinburgh law firm Turcan Connell said: "As part of our policy to promote a healthy work-life balance, we would consider each request individually."
A Scottish Enterprise spokeswoman said: "Staff are allowed time off work to care for dependents, this would normally be one or two days. A dependant is defined as a spouse, child or parent."
Standard Life does not have a policy.
A Scottish Executive spokesman said: "There is no specific provision to cover this. If people do have problems with their pets they can use annual leave or flexi-time."
'Pets are part of the family'
AMANDA Pitkethly has already taken two days off work to look after her sick dog, despite rescuing it only three weeks ago.
Mrs Pitkethly, 33, who owns an alternative-therapy shop in Edinburgh, believes that her collie-terrier cross puppy, Harry, is part of the family and should be cared for like her daughter.
So when Harry, who suffers from megaoesophagus, which causes food regurgitation, is ill, Mrs Pitkethly stays at her Marchmont home to look after her "dependant".
Mrs Pitkethly uses the same techniques, such as Reiki, on nine-month-old Harry as she does on her nine-year-old daughter, Leo, when she is sick. Mrs Pitkethly, who runs AJP Therapy Centre in Lyne Street, said that pet owners should take the commitment to look after their animals "very seriously".
"Pets are part of the family, so their owners should be willing to put in the huge commitment necessary to look after such a wee life.
"We are supposedly a nation of animal-lovers, so workers should be able to take time off if their pet is genuinely ill.
"I remember as a child my mother taking time off work to take our pets to the vet and I now do the same.
"Harry was born with an illness which means it is difficult for food to reach his stomach. I have to feed him six times a day and have to administer his food from a height so that gravity pushes the food down," she explained.
"When he was really sick recently I stayed off work and gave him Reiki and made sure he was warm and hydrated, which is exactly what I would do for my daughter."
She added: "If you have pets, most people would agree they are part of the family and therefore you should do for them what you would do for your children. Harry is like my second child.
"People should only get a pet if they work for animal- friendly employers who are willing to allow time off to care for the animal when it is ill," she said.
"Hopefully even more employers will realise how important it is."
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