'Pawternity' leave: Should workers get time off to spend with their pets?

A new poll asked social media users whether workers should be given leave to spend time with their pets

Lockdowns have led to a rise in pet owners across the country in the past year. But with more people leaving their pets at home to go back to the office, one social media user sparked a debate that divided tens of thousands of opinions.

He asked: should workers be given time off to spend time with their pets?

Roger Wade, the founder of the Boxpark shopping and dining chain, was asked by an employee for time off to look after a new puppy.

Mr Wade then took to LinkedIn to ask his followers whether they supported the idea of having time off to spend time with a pet. Over 34,000 people responded to his poll on LinkedIn, with 61% saying no to what has now been branded "pawternity" leave.

61% of the 32,000 people who responded to the poll were against the idea of pawternity leave

One user said: "Absolutely! I don’t benefit from paternity leave or childcare vouchers so part of my work benefits package is useless to me. I’d rather have 100 dogs than 1 kid."

But one of the 61% against the idea said: "This is an absolutely ridiculous idea... I think people need to get a grip on reality."

Alex Marchant, a professional dog walker from London, told ITV News that he supports the idea of pawternity leave, to protect the welfare of animals:

"Even if it means less work for me, I support it... there is an obligation for owners to look after their pets and the welfare of the pet should come first."

Lockdowns have led to a pet-owning boom in the UK over the past year. 3.2 million households got a pet since the start of the pandemic, according to research by the Pet Food Manufacturers' Association.

However, with Covid restrictions easing, animal charities have seen an increase in owners giving up their pets.

The RSPCA said it is bracing itself for a "major dog welfare crisis", and expect to see huge numbers of dogs handed to rescue centres, sold online, and abandoned.

Dogs Trust: things to consider before getting a puppy

  • Can you change your schedule to spend more time at home with the puppy?

  • Are you prepared to take them out for walks in all weathers?

  • Can you afford pet food, pet insurance, and vet bills?

  • Can you devote time to training and playing with them?