Why won’t my employer give me a day off to grieve for my dog?

With over 20 million domestic cats and dogs in the UK, it’s safe to say that we’re a nation of pet lovers.

22nd August 2019

It can be extremely upsetting when a beloved pet passes away. When a student from Glasgow took a day off work to mourn the death of her 14-year-old dog, she lost her job, prompting her to start a petition demanding that employees be allowed a short period to grieve after a pet has passed away.

DAS Law’s Miquelle Groves runs through exactly what the law says about this matter.

My pet has just passed away. Do I have the right to time off work?

People are not always aware of this but in most situations, there is no automatic right to time off for anyone when a loved one dies. This applies to family members, loved ones, friends and pets.

You do have the right to ‘time off for dependants’. This is unpaid time off to deal with an unforeseen situation or emergency involving a dependant, and can include time off to arrange and attend funerals. A dependant could be a spouse, child or parent, essentially anyone living in the property or someone that you care for.

A new law is expected to come in to force in April 2020 (Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay) which is a breakthrough for those suffering from bereavements; it is the first time that the law recognises the need for us to need time to grieve.

However, the Act only goes as far as to protect parents who lose a child under 18 by giving them 2 weeks leave. This law does not cover the loss of a pet.

So with no changes in the law that extend beyond the loss of children or where the deceased is not classed as a ‘dependant’, we do not have the legal right to time off work where a pet passes away.

So it would have to be in my contract of employment?

That would be the only way of being sure that you’ll be permitted to take time off in this situation. Although there is no ‘right’ to time off in law, a contract of employment may provide for this entitlement.

Some contracts allow for a specific period of time off whilst others may allow at a manager’s discretion. The same applies with regards to pay; any time off granted could be paid or unpaid depending on the contract or your manager’s discretion.

Can my employer deny me time off?

With no legal entitlement, and if there is no contractual entitlement, then yes, time off can be refused. If time off is granted by an employer at their discretion, they must apply this allowance consistently to treat all employees the same.

If an employer grants time off for one employee and subsequently denies you the time off, this could result in you being able to raise a grievance.

If my employer says no, what are my options?

If possible, speak to your employers, explain all of the circumstances, and discuss using annual leave allowance or the possibility of taking unpaid leave.

Would the type of pet and how long I’ve had it make a difference?

Whether you own a dog, cat, parrot or pig, the type of animal does not affect the entitlement (or lack thereof). Neither does it matter whether you have had the pet for a few days or several decades.

If I am fired, can I make a claim for unfair dismissal?

Although it may seem unfair, it is possible that a dismissal could be fair and this depends on the employment and all of the circumstances.

If you have less than 2 years’ service then there is no entitlement to bring a claim for unfair dismissal (Employment Rights Act 1996).

However, if you have more than 2 years’ service then you may argue unfair dismissal if your employer has not relied upon a ‘fair reason’, or if they have not followed a fair procedure.

If you took the time off without consent and were dismissed, then it is likely the employer has dismissed you for unauthorised absence. Whilst you could argue unfair dismissal, given that unauthorised absence can be considered gross misconduct, an employment tribunal may consider the dismissal fair.

The employer would need to take in to account all of the circumstances to determine whether dismissal is a reasonable response to you taking the time off.

Disclaimer: This information is for general guidance regarding rights and responsibilities and is not formal legal advice as no lawyer-client relationship has been created. Note that the information was accurate at the time of publication but laws may have since changed.

How your dog could get you in trouble with the law

With ‘dangerous dogs’ back in the news, DAS Law’s Sarah Garner tells you what you need to know about a pet owner’s rights and responsibilities.

July 2019 Learn more
When a dog bites another dog

What can you do if your pet is attacked by someone else’s dog, and what can you expect if your dog harms another?

April 2018 Learn more
Offences and punishments under the Animal Welfare Act

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 is a piece of legislation which aims to ensure that animals are not mistreated by humans, whether through improper care or sheer cruelty.

April 2018 Learn more

Read more from the DAS Law blog

General advice New school year brings new clashes over school uniforms

Strict school uniform rules have angered parents who believe their children should be allowed some flexibility when it comes to uniforms. But where does the law stand and what can parents do if they disagree with school rules?

September 2019
Road traffic accidents , General advice What the law has to say about e-scooters, e-skateboards and bike hire schemes

Few of us could fail to notice the rise in the number of e-scooters and hire bikes on our roads .But what do owners and riders need to know?

September 2019
General advice Why won’t my employer give me a day off to grieve for my dog?

When a student from Glasgow took a day off work to mourn the death of her 14-year-old dog, she lost her job.

August 2019
General advice Understanding the law on facial recognition software

Where does the law stand on the use of facial recognition software? Hannah Parsons, Principal Associate Solicitor, DAS Law, tells you what you need to know.

August 2019
General advice How your dog could get you in trouble with the law

With ‘dangerous dogs’ back in the news, DAS Law’s Sarah Garner tells you what you need to know about a pet owner’s rights and responsibilities.

July 2019
General advice Your legal rights if you have private photos leaked

The UK Government has laws in place to combat ‘revenge porn’ and the sharing of private sexual materials with the intent to cause distress or financial gain, so what can you do if you find yourself in a similarly compromising situation?

July 2019
General advice , Holiday disputes Term-time holidays: fines for taking children out of school go up 93%

The summer holidays are fast approaching and the allure of cheaper holidays during term time is rising. However, schools are taking a much harder line when it comes to issuing fines to parents who take children out of school early.

June 2019
General advice 7 things you should know about driving fines

Millions of motorists across the UK are committing driving offences they did not know existed. Robert Hodson looks at the law around some of the most common offences.

May 2019
General advice Don’t let the law come calling when using your mobile phone while driving

Sam Phillips, a trainee solicitor at DAS Law, gives us the low-down on the law on mobile phones and driving.

April 2019
General advice If your engagement doesn't have a happy ending, who gets the ring?

If your fiancé(e) or unexpectedly breaks off the engagement, who gets to keep the engagement ring?

February 2019
General advice , Motorcycling How to fight a parking ticket

There are a number of important differences between parking tickets from the local council and those enforced by private companies. DAS Law has the lowdown on parking tickets and tells you how to pursue a dispute and avoid paying penalty charges.

February 2019
General advice , Protecting your business 6 things you need to know about missing the 31 January self-assessment deadline

With 31 January deadline fast approaching, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has warned that 5,542,000 taxpayers have still to complete their Self-Assessment tax returns. What can you do if you miss the deadline?

January 2019