A New Zealand bank has introduced a policy allowing employees time off work to look after pets. Offered on a case-by-case basis, this new benefit allows animal-lovers similar rights to parents and carers, by enabling them to attend medical appointments, settle in the house and new surroundings and attend emergencies. While shared parental leave is an option for couples with a child, for those who choose not to raise a family, or postpone it in favour of a career, there are fewer options.

Gina McCadden, Employment paralegal says: “While leave specifically to look after pets may not be realistic for the smooth running of a company, there are benefits of allowing a certain degree of flexibility for employees who will most likely have busy lives outside of the workplace. By allowing employees to miss a few hours of work to attend school plays, vet visits, doctor appointments on occasions, they are more likely to feel valued in their roles and work harder to make up for any lost time.”

She continues: “Some companies even offer sabbaticals to employees as rewards for work or commitment, for example long service, or employee of the year. These types of benefit can encourage the best employees to stay with the company and deliver their best performances. If your company doesn’t have the budget or staff numbers to realistically support sabbaticals, it could be worth offering the option of buying and selling up to a set number of holiday days, or giving staff the entitlement to ‘flexi-time’ where employees can leave the office for personal reasons, and make up the time at a later date.”