Woman wins right to use family sick leave to care for dog

Sick pets can be covered by family sick leave
Sick pets can be covered by family sick leave
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An Italian librarian has won the right to use family sick leave to care for her ailing dog.

The ruling means the woman does not have to use annual leave days to stay by the side of the English setter she considers to be part of her family.

Italian animal advocacy group LAV says it helped persuade public La Sapienza University to let her use two days' family sick leave to care for 12-year-old Cucciola.

But are we likely to see similar concessions by employers in this country?

Kate Palmer, Head of Advisory at Employment Law consultancy Peninsula said "Although many people consider their pet to be an important member of their family, or even a dependant, they are not included within the statutory definition that entitles employees to unpaid time off work during emergencies. Other types of statutory leave, such as paid sick leave, are also not available to use for sick pets. The unavailability of statutory time off from work can leave pet owners stranded when trying to make arrangements to attend vet appointments or provide care for their sick pets.

"Although there isn’t a legal entitlement to time off, most employers will be understanding and compassionate in these circumstances. Having a distracted employee whose mind is on their pet will not be beneficial to the business as the employee is likely to be less productive and at risk of making errors in their work. Various types of leave can be discussed with the employee, such as unpaid leave, short-notice holiday and time off in lieu. Amending hours to allow flexible start and end times, where the hours are made up in the future, can also be adopted to accommodate attendance at vet appointments.

"There are companies who offer “pawternity” or “peternity” leave so employees can take time off work to settle a new pet in or visit the vets. This is a growing initiative and companies who find employees are often requiring time off for their pets may wish to introduce a similar policy to formalise the arrangements. The policy can include information such as whether this time off is paid or unpaid and whether there are any limits on time off, for example, a maximum number of days’ leave per year.

"The difficult balance for many employers is to be understanding and flexible for those employees with ill animals, whilst not causing conflict with employees who don’t have family pets."

The woman said Cucciola is recovering well from surgery for a breast tumour and a larynx problem.

The woman, who is single and has no family help for Cucciola, declined to be identified.

She adopted Cucciola, found abandoned in a Rome park.