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While many new moms and dads in the U.S. juggle newborns and work responsibilities, some pet owners at tech companies are getting time-off to care for new puppies and kitties.
This new breed of “paw-ternity" leave is the latest effort by tech companies to attract employees in an ever-tightening job market in the U.S. Now, in addition to free gourmet meals, on-site daycare, and state-of-the art fitness centers, some tech companies are offering new pet-friendly policies.
Many tech companies have welcomed pets in their offices for years, but offering pet leave is a new phenomenon. One company that claims to be the standard-bearer for pet-friendly enterprises is BrewDog, a Scottish company that recently opened a brewery and taproom in Columbus, Ohio. The company proclaimed last year that it was the first in the United States to offer workers a paw-ternity benefit. All of the company's approximately 1,000 employees qualify for time-off to care for their furry friends.
"It's not easy trying to juggle work and settle a new dog into your life, and many members of our crew have four-legged friends at home," BrewDog co-founder James Watt told USA Today. "We wanted to take the stress out of the situation and let our teams take the time they need to welcome their new puppy or dog into their family."
Another company, Nina Hale, a marketing firm in Minneapolis, began allowing employees to work from home in order to help a new dog or cat settle-in, according to a recent report in The New York Times.
While it remains to be seen whether leave for pet owners will become widespread, the trend toward more pet-friendly workplaces is growing. According to a 2015 Society for Human Resource Management's Employee Benefits survey, 8 percent of respondents reported that pets were allowed in their workplace, an increase from 5 percent in 2013.
There is even scientific evidence to support the benefits of bringing pets to work. A recent study conducted by researchers at West Virginia University concluded that “dog-friendly work places may manifest as lower rates of absenteeism and higher worker morale and productivity."
But, the authors do add that the jury is still out on how much of an advantage pet-friendly policies are when it comes to hiring and retention: “The reporting of pet-friendly corporate policies of companies in the popular press has perhaps contributed to positive public reactions, but more research is needed to compare similar businesses with and without dog-friendly policies to better understand whether these policies support a competitive advantage, not only in relation to consumer preferences, but also by attracting and retaining the most qualified employees."
Still, paid time-off pet policies are clearly another carrot for corporate recruiters to use in attracting new tech talent. Already, those same companies are using family leave as an incentive. Silicon Valley companies have long recognized the importance of family leave as a hiring incentive. According to a report in CIO, companies that offer a family leave benefit fill job vacancies 17.5 days faster than companies that don't offer a similar benefit.
To put the significance of paw-ternity leave in perspective, according to the Pew Research Center, just 14 percent of civilian workers in the U.S. have access to family leave. So, for companies looking for a hiring edge, a family leave policy that includes pets might just be the perfect bone to throw to a potential new hire.