If you’ve ever explored SpringLaw’s Teams’ Bios, it’s no secret that we are huge pet lovers over here! And, being a virtual law firm, we are lucky enough to work with our furry friends daily. For workplaces that are in-office or hybrid, we have seen various workplaces try to replicate this joy by introducing pet-friendly policies to allow employees to bring their pets to work. For animal lovers, the benefits of bringing your pet to work days may be obvious including improved morale, reduced stress, and even increased productivity. However, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies for all employees and if you’re thinking about rolling out a Pet Policy at your workplace, there are some very important legal factors to consider before doing so.
Is your workspace appropriate for animals?
First and foremost, you need to determine if your workspace is pet-friendly. Generally, a smaller office setting works great for pets and can limit the number of pets onsite at once. A larger organization, with a larger workforce and bigger office space, may not be realistic if all employees who want to bring their pets to work, actually do so. Also, bringing a pet to a factory, construction site, or other non-office workspaces can cause serious hazards and would not be an appropriate workspace for a Pet Policy.
Implement a Pet Policy
If you determine your workspace is suitable for pets, it’s recommended that you implement a formal Pet Policy that all employees must abide by. The policy should address what constitutes a “pet”, any regulations such as vaccination requirements, training or behavioural standards, and owner responsibilities surrounding cleanliness, damages, and supervision. The policy should also include who is liable for any injuries caused by the pet and should formalize a procedure for addressing complaints or concerns to ensure a feedback process.
Legal Considerations for Implementing a Pet Policy
Health and Safety
The Occupation Health and Safety Act requires employers to ensure a safe and hazard-free workplace for all employees. Allowing pets in the workplace poses some serious health and safety concerns including, increased risk of tripping hazards or the potential for bites, scratches, or other related animal injuries. Employers should also be cognizant that pet allergies may exist among their employees. Employers should conduct risk assessments to address all potential pet hazards and ensure realistic procedures are in place to mitigate the risks.
Human Rights and Accommodations
It’s important to differentiate that a Pet Policy allowing employees to bring their pet to work is very different than an employee bringing a service animal to work. An employee with a disability who requires a service animal must be accommodated up to the point of undue hardship by their employer under the Human Rights Code. A Pet Policy is a completely optional policy and should be implemented at the discretion of the employer. Employers need to be aware of other accommodations that may be present when rolling out a Pet Policy. Similar to how employers need to accommodate service animals, they also have a duty to accommodate employees who cannot work next to pets for health reasons, like allergies.
While the idea of a pet-friendly workplace can be appealing, employers need to navigate a few legal considerations to ensure they are compliant and that their workplace remains safe and inclusive. By understanding your legal obligations and developing comprehensive policies, employers can strike a balance that benefits both their employees and their furry friends.
Do you have questions about implementing a Pet Policy, or policies in general, at your workplace? Get in touch for a consultation.