In May, Connor McCarthy welcomed the newest addition to his family: Bentley, a two-month-old Goldendoodle.
McCarthy got to stay home and watch over the puppy thanks to his company’s new “fur-ternity leave.”
Nina Hale, a Minneapolis digital marketing company, offers employees one week of flexible hours to care for new pets.
“I think being able to be home and being able to have that flexible schedule the first week really allowed Bentley to understand his new surroundings,” said McCarthy, a senior account manager at Nina Hale.
McCarthy and his girlfriend had been planning to adopt a puppy and knew that the first week was critical to the puppy-person bonding period. So he asked his supervisor for flexible hours. His request was approved in a day.
“We thought, ‘Of course, that’s hardly a question,’ ” said Allison McMenimen, executive director at Nina Hale. “It’s such a reasonable ask, and bringing a new puppy home is a big, important life step.”
More than ever, companies across the country are offering new benefits — from free gym access to kombucha on tap — to enhance work-life balance and retain employees. Netflix offers unlimited vacation days, while online retail giant Amazon offers paid parental leave for employees’ spouses who do not work for the company.
Still, it’s rare to see perks when it comes to pets. According to the New York Times, an Italian company allowed a woman last year to take paid time off when her dog became sick. And employees at mParticle, a data company in New York, are offered “paw-ternity leave” — two weeks of paid time off for those who adopt a rescue dog or get an exotic pet, such as an iguana.
“We’re kind of in the new era of employee benefits,” McMenimen said. “It’s about catering to people at all their different life stages.”
McCarthy isn’t the first employee at Nina Hale to ask about pet leave. After receiving multiple requests, the company decided to make the pet perk a standard policy for employees.
“What we’re trying to do is make sure we have benefits that accommodate people throughout their lives, whether they're needing more flexibility to care for an aging loved one or whether they're adopting a new pet at home,” McMenimen said.
McCarthy, a first-time puppy owner, said the first week was important for potty training and getting Bentley acclimated to his new family and surroundings.
“It certainly impacts your schedule, and it certainly impacts what’s going on at home, so having that flexibility with Bentley was crucial,” he said.
The policy at Nina Hale includes “any animal that doesn’t primarily live in a cage,” McMenimen said. The new perk centers around the idea of work-life balance, understanding that life extends beyond the office.
Pets have become especially popular among younger Americans, with three-fourths of people in their 30s being dog owners and over 51 percent having cats, according to the Washington Post. Pet insurance is a fast-growing employee benefit, with one in three Fortune 500 companies offering it. “Take Your Dog to Work Days,” intended to improve office morale and productivity, are becoming more common.
As for the four-legged friend, McCarthy said bringing Bentley home has been a “complete joy.”
“He’s just one of the family members now,” McCarthy said.