Hello and welcome to our fifth Employment Law Snippet article. This week we will be looking at employers having pet policies to allow staff to bring dogs into the workplace! Let’s see if this idea causes staff and employers alike to have paws for thought (sorry!)
There are various reported advantages of allowing dogs in the workplace, say within an office space. The most commonly quoted are, as ever, the most obvious: they make the owner happier within work, lower their stress levels and, also, tend to keep employees physically active during break periods when they take their dog for a quick walk.
In fact, most organisations which allow dogs report increased productivity from staff members, albeit this usually follows initial checks and due process under a specifically drafted dog policy (to ensure the dog isn’t Scooby Doo’s arch nemesis and prone to bite everything and everyone in sight, as well as ensuring it has the relevant immunisations and anti-flea treatment).
However, alongside the advantages, are various factors relating to doggy doom! Firstly, and quite simply, some staff members don’t like dogs! That fact may seem incredible to dog lovers but some people, particularly those who thrive on a quiet space whilst working, find dogs as annoying as THAT GUY on the train with loud music spilling out of their headphones because of the increased noise dogs (and their owners) cause around each other. Naturally, any dog policy I draft explicitly bans squeaky dog toys!!
Additionally, some people don’t even have the luxury of deciding whether or not they like dogs, due to pet allergies. Obviously, this would be a major Health & Safety concern and is one of the factors behind most employers informing staff that a dog policy isn’t possible, when asked.
Finally, there is a cleanliness issue because, as much as you love dogs, there is no debate that a workplace containing various doggies will collect more dog hairs and doggy scents than one without. One company has commented that it makes no real difference because they reacted by simply ensuring the office was more thoroughly cleaned on a more regular basis but, naturally, that would be at an increased cost and, also, requires staff to clean up more often.
Naturally, there are ways of mitigating anything that may be dog ruff in the workplace. Firstly, there can be a dog friendly zone and/or dog friendly meeting rooms and, additionally, a thorough screening process (again, as set out within a written dog policy) to make sure that the anti-social, loud or bitey dogs don’t obtain their ‘pet passport’ to the workplace.
Overall, a lot will depend on the openness of the employer’s owners (and its workers) to allowing pets in the workplace as, if the intent is there, a written dog policy can mitigate the majority of difficulties caused! There we go then. A dog policy at work? Ruff justice or barking up the wrong tree? (Sorry!)