It is currently estimated that around 8% of UK employees are allowed to bring their dogs to work.

Over the past year, the number of dog owners has significantly increased due to people spending more time at home throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many employers are starting to see the benefits that having dogs in the workplace can bring to their business and are warming to the idea.

If you are thinking of allowing dogs in your workplace, we outline below some key issues to consider and the best approach to take from a HR perspective.

Pros & Cons of Allowing dogs in the workplace 

Allowing dogs in the workplace can bring a range of benefits to your business but there are some downsides that you need to bear in mind.

Positives

Reduces Stress - The most notable benefit of having dogs in the workplace is lower employee stress levels.

Multiple studies have proven that employees who bring their dogs to work are less stressed than those who don’t.

Having a dog by their side gives employees a sense of companionship and comfort whilst at work.

The simple act of stroking a dog boosts the levels of serotonin in the brain, alleviating stress and putting the employee in a better mindset for the day ahead.

Increased Productivity - Employees who are less stressed, inevitably perform better.

Allowing dogs in the workplace forces their owners and encourages other employees to take breaks outside to walk the dog.

Taking short breaks and getting fresh air throughout the working day allows employees to clear their mind and re-energise, meaning they are more creative and productive when they return to their desk.

Bonds the team and encourages collaboration - Having a dog creates a friendly and welcoming environment because others are more likely to approach you to stroke your dog and start a conversation.

Therefore, allowing dogs at work can provide an easy way for colleagues who otherwise don’t have much in common to socialise and bond as a team.

This will greatly benefit your business, as employees who know each other well and get on personally are more likely to work effectively as an integrated team.

It is also a great icebreaker when new employees first start, as a dog will instantly spark conversation.

Boosts Morale - Having dogs in the office creates a positive and friendly culture, where employees are happy to work.

Employees who can bring their dog to work report higher levels of job satisfaction.

Getting exercise by going for a walk every lunch break will improve an employee’s physical and mental health and contribute to their general wellbeing.

Attracts & Retains Employees - Dog owners are naturally going to be drawn to employers who have dog-friendly policies and allow dogs to accompany employees at work.

With dog owners forming a significant proportion of the population, this will be a factor for many employees when choosing jobs.

Employees must make difficult decisions regarding their dog’s care whilst at work, as many dogs cannot be left alone for long periods and arranging a dog sitter incurs a great expense.

Allowing dogs at the workplace frees employees of such concerns, and acts as a great benefit to them and their dogs.

Job satisfaction and work relationships are both enhanced by the presence of dogs at the workplace.

As these issues influence employee retention rates, allowing dogs at work may encourage employees to work for your business long-term.

Negatives

Allergies - It is possible that some employees will be allergic to dogs and cannot be around them.

Symptoms can be severe in some cases and even hypoallergenic dogs may make certain employees suffer serious side effects.

If this is the case, the allergic employee’s health and wellbeing at work must take priority because as an employer you owe all employees the right to work in a safe and healthy environment.

You may be able to protect allergic employees by ensuring no dogs come within a close proximity to them and allowing them to work in dog-free spaces.

However, if an allergic reaction to dogs in the office cannot be avoided, it will not be appropriate for you to allow dogs in the workplace.

Phobias - Similarly, employees may be extremely scared of dogs or strongly dislike them.

Phobias of dogs can be deep-rooted so it would not be fair to allow dogs to roam the office if it would put some employees on edge and hinder their productivity.

Distraction - Having dogs in the workplace may cause excessive disruption to the business.

For example, if dogs are causing too much noise through barking and squeaky toys, or employees cannot focus on their work because they are too busy caring for their dog.

Hygiene Issues - Even when dogs are adequately trained and being cared for, they can be unhygienic.

Some work environments will not be suitable for dogs, such as factories, medical settings and spaces where food handling takes place.

Health and Safety - As dogs are animals, there is an inherent health and safety risk that they will be aggressive towards another dog or employee, for example by scratching or biting them.

Important considerations

Employee agreement

If you believe that allowing dogs at your workplace will benefit your business, we highly advise speaking to your staff before making any final decisions.

It is important to take on board employee opinion because as outlined above some employees may be allergic or fearful of dogs.

You should only allow dogs in the workplace if it is suitable for your business and employees are agreeable.

Many UK businesses participate in ‘Bring Your Dog to Work Day’, whereby employees can bring their dog to work for one day each year in June and they donate money to charity in return.

This is a great opportunity for you to test out having dogs in the office if you are unsure about employee reactions and the effects on your business.

Risk assessment

You should conduct a risk assessment before introducing dogs to the workplace to ensure that you have a safe environment for everyone involved.

This will involve identifying any potential risks to dogs, such as electric wires and harmful substances, and implementing measures to remove these hazards from the workplace.

It will also entail putting in place precautions to protect employees from the health and safety risks posed by the presence of dogs in the workplace, such as allergies and injuries from scratching and biting.

Insurance and liability

Allowing dogs in the workplace may cause problems in terms of your insurance and liability for potential accidents or damage.

We advise checking that the presence of dogs will not invalidate your current business insurance and ensuring you are covered for any accidents or damage to company property caused by a dog.

Pets at work policy

Before allowing employees to bring their dogs to work, we advise issuing a policy that clearly outlines your expectations and employees’ responsibilities.

Resources to help your Business

Dogs at work policy (Template)

Dog requirements

Your policy should stipulate the standards you expect of dogs entering the workplace.

Dogs should be suitably trained and well behaved so that they do not cause disruption to the business or create hazards.

They must be sociable and docile, as it is essential that they get along with other employees’ dogs.

It is also worth checking that the dog has received all the necessary vaccinations and is regularly checked for fleas and worms, to protect the health and safety of other dogs and employees.

Owner responsibilities 

You should make it clear that the owner will have full responsibility for their dog at all times.

They must ensure that any mess is cleared up and that their dog is not causing havoc in the office.

You should also set out any ground rules, such as dog-free areas in the building or whether dogs need to be kept on a lead.

You should warn employees that if any damage or injury is caused by their dog, they will be liable, so they need to have adequate pet insurance in place.

How issues will be dealt with

Many companies who already have a dogs at work policy in place, such as Nestlé, allow dogs to attend the workplace on a three-month probationary period before they are granted permanent permission to accompany the employee at work.

This provides the opportunity to see if the dog settles into the office and make sure that no problems arise.

We advise making it clear in your policy that complaints from other employees will result in your dog’s removal from the workplace, as after all employee wellbeing and the needs of the business must come first.  

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About the author 

James Rowland

James is the Commercial Director at Neathouse Partners and regularly writes articles surrounding issues in HR & Employment Law. Outside of the office, James is a keen Cricketer, playing in the Cheshire League for Nantwich CC. He also loves going to watch his football team, Crewe Alexandra. Feel free to connect with James on LinkedIn.

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