Excerpted from a SpringLaw Blog by Lindsay Koruna
If you’ve ever explored SpringLaw’s bios, it’s no secret we are huge pet lovers! 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 may be obvious including improved morale and increased productivity. However, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies and, if you’re thinking about rolling out a Pet Policy, there are some legal factors to consider.
Is your workspace appropriate?
Foremost, you need to determine if your workspace is pet friendly. Generally, a smaller office works great for pets and can limit the number of pets onsite at once. A larger organization, with a larger workforce and office space, may not be realistic if all employees want to bring their pets to work. Also, bringing a pet to a factory, construction site or non-office workspace can cause serious hazards and would not be appropriate.
Implement a Pet Policy
If you determine your workspace is suitable, it’s recommended you implement a formal Pet Policy employees must abide by. The policy should address what constitutes a “pet,” regulations such as vaccination requirements, training or behavioral standards, and owner responsibilities surrounding cleanliness and supervision. The policy should include who is liable for injuries caused by the pet and should formalize a procedure for addressing complaints to ensure a feedback process.
Health and Safety
The Occupation Health and Safety Act requires employers to ensure a safe and hazard-free workplace. Allowing pets in the workplace poses some serious safety concerns including increased risk of tripping or the potential for bite injuries. Employers should be cognizant that pet allergies may exist among employees. Employers should conduct risk assessments to address potential 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 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 under the Human Rights Code. A Pet Policy is a completely optional policy and should be implemented at the discretion of the employer. 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.
While the idea of a pet-friendly workplace can be appealing, employers need to navigate the legal considerations to ensure they are compliant and 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.
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