The most valuable asset of an organization is its human resource. Human resource management is an integral component of an organization. Human resource management enables the employees to contribute their maximum to achieve the organisational goals. In any organization, human beings are the most important inputs. Nowadays, human resource has acquired a new dimension in business organisations. This is due to the unique importance of human resources and its complexity due to ever-changing psychological behaviour and attitude of men and women at work. Motivation is the main aspect that increases efficiency levels of the employees.
Definition of HRM (Susan M Heath field)
“Human resource management is the function within an organization that focuses on recruitment of, management of, and providing direction to the people who work in the organization. Human resource management can also be performed by the managers.” (Heathfield, 2009). In this study, the main focus is on paternity leave relating to human resource management. Pets are the companions which are kept at home by the people for enjoyment. It is one of the motivating factors for the employees in the organisation when giving them paternity leave. This leave is given to the employees mainly for taking care of their pets.
An Australian company first introduced a special leave benefit for employees to take care of their pets. In U.K there is a style of spending time for caring the family pet. This is called paternity leave. “Virgin Mobile Company in Australia introduced paternity leave for members of their staff.” (PETernity leave introduced for virgin mobile Australia staff 2009).
This is a good approach from the side of human resource management.
Human resource management has a wide scope. The main objective of human resource management is to increase the level of efficiency of employees by motivating them. Many companies encourage paternity leave for taking care of pets by their employees. People may feel emotional when small pets are born or die in their homes, and therefore, it is a good thing to allow leave to the employees during this time. The main objective of HRM is to decrease employee turnover in an organization. When employees’ retention is increased, it will enhance the recognition of an organization. When employee turnover gets reduced, it is a positive sign of efficiency.
Only few animals could be treated as real pets and employees are allowed peternity leave for taking care of such pets. Employees may insist on being granted peternity leave for caring snakes, or fishes. “FIRST, we had maternity leave, and then came paternity leave. And now we have “peternity” leave. (Pet-ernity leave a new perk 2009). The objective of peternity leave is to reward the employees by allowing them time off for taking care of pets. It raises the working efficiency of the people. Employees may consider adopting pets if peternity leave is granted to them for caring and rearing such pets. Like peternity and maternity leave, Virgin Mobile Company allows their employees five days’ unpaid leave to buy and rear pets at their homes. “This is available to the Virgin Mobile staffs i.e., staff who are working in the company for more than two years and who give a “statutory declaration”.” (PETernity leave introduced for virgin mobile Australia staff 2009).
Human resource management must give priority to the working conditions of employees. When they give importance to the needs of the employees, the employees in turn may feel satisfied with their employers. Thus, peternity leave itself is a great reward for the employees. An employee retention scheme could be implemented by taking into account the employees’ suggestions and trying to implement these suggestions. If this is done, it would increase work efficiency of workforce
First, there were maternity leave and paternity leave. Now, a new type of leave called peternity leave is introduced in corporate establishments. An Australian company, Virgin Mobiles first introduced this new type of leave. Now companies in Britain are allowing employees to take paid time off to look after their sick pets. In London, internet search “company Google allows its employees to take pets (only dogs) to their work place, subject to their “dog policy”.” (Google’s dog policy 2006).
Peternity leave provides employees more time off to help the family, or walk the dog. The research report reveals that there are many significant intangible benefits for firms that create a flexible work place environment. This leads employees with a healthier mental outlook towards their work. Retention of employees reduces spending of the company on advertising and recruiting new employees. The significant benefits are not only in terms of attracting and retaining employees, but also in reducing stress and burnout.
Employee retention is a key challenge in organisations today, especially in implementing loyalty strategies for employee retention. To a very large extent, the long term success and growth of business is dependent upon retaining loyal and key employees. For this, it is necessary to pay excellent salaries and to provide good benefits. Peternity leave can be used as a strategy for retention of employees, and many corporate organisations in Australia and Britain are now using this as a strategy for selecting and retaining employees.
Employee rewards management is a part of Human Resource Management. There are two types of employee rewards – monetary rewards and non-monetary rewards. Peternity leave is a type of non-monetary reward to employees. While providing this type of new rewards to employees, it is believed by management that the employees would become happier in their work. It reduces labour turnover and the productivity of the firm increases. Pet owners cannot claim peternity leave for caring all kinds of pets. This leave is provided to the employees who own puppies and kittens aged ten weeks or below.
The main objective of peternity leave strategy is to decrease employee turnover of an organisation. When employee retention is increased, it will enhance recognition of a firm, especially when taking into account only few animals as pets and allowing peternity leave for them. Employees may request for granting leave for caring reptiles like snake or fish; this is not possible. There are many arguments against peternity leave. Many of them argue that this is not a fair strategy. However, in this competitive business world, it is very difficult to sustain without implementing this type of new strategies. A growing number of employers are allowing their employees to take peternity leave to care their pets if they are sick or they need to go to the vet.
“The Virgin Mobile Company of Australia offers five days’ unpaid leave to its employees to take care of new born pets.” (PETernity leave introduced for virgin mobile Australia staff 2009).This is because they are enlightened employers, who understand the concerns of anxious employees regarding the welfare of their pets (Robin’s reading and reflection 2009). In the UK, organisations such as Royal Mail and The Bank of Scotland are giving peternity leave to their employees. Virgin Mobile Company’s human resource director said: “there are quite number of people in our call centres that have snakes as pets but there is probably not as much as need for peternity leave for those animals.” (Moran 2009).
Peternity leave in VMA
The aspect of peternity leave was introduced in VMA during February 2009, by its Human Resource Director, Ms. Angela Foskett. The aspect of peternity leave as envisaged by Virgin Mobile is that, in order to seek entitlement for this privilege of 5 days’ unpaid leave per year, the employee must have worked for at least two years. In other words, this benefit does not accrue to employees who have worked for less than two years. This is one way of ensuring that people who care for pets must also care about VMA, and work at least for two years to avail of this privilege.
“As an example of the innovative policies Angela and her team have brought to the unique Virgin Mobile culture, in February 2009 ‘Peternity Leave’ – up to 5 days to care for a new puppy or kitten, now available to all staff after 2 years of service.” (Our management team n.d.). Further condition is that it would be available only in case of new puppies or kittens less than 12 weeks old (We love our people n.d.).
Why privilege is restricted only to newly born puppies and kittens and not other kinds of pets
However, the critical aspect is that why this privilege is restricted to only puppies and kittens and not for caring other kinds of new pets like rabbits, snakes, iguanas, etc. The main justification that only newly born kittens and puppies need special care may not be entirely convincing. It is quite possible that a rabbit may fall sick after 12 weeks and needs treatment and caring. Therefore, it would be rather biased on the part of VMA administration to restrict the caring only to newly born puppies and kittens. It needs to be suggested that the scope be widened to care any pet of any age which needs genuine treatment and caring, and this would bring in the real essence and need. Further, not all 600 employees would be caring new puppies and kittens.
Only a select few would be having puppies, and that too new ones. Moreover, others may be opting for different kinds of pets other than the selected categories. In a sense, they would be deprived of genuine care and affection shown towards their pets. Another aspect that needs to be considered is whether this privilege of five days’ unpaid leave would induce employees to select new puppies and kittens.
While pets do act as surrogate babies, this could be a strong inducement for people who do not wish to have babies but would prefer to rear pets like kittens and puppies instead. To this extent, it could be said that pets could help in mood elevation and increased productivity in work place. However, the main aspect of contention is why pets have been restricted to just 10 week old puppies and kittens – why not to 11 week old rabbits or squirrels, or even sick pet snails or tortoises? As rightly pointed out by Ms. Foskett, “There is probably not as much need for pet-ernity leave for fish or rats, although we do have in our call centres quite a number of people who have snakes as pets.” (Moran 2009).
Pets being pets, they may have a marketed proclivity for falling sick and thus the condition for pets to be restricted to just puppies, or kittens on the grounds that these two categories need utmost care, falls well within the realm of being presumptuous or indulging in smug self righteousness.
While VMA lays claims of greater productivity by allowing qualifying employees 5 days’ unpaid leave annually, another British based company “The Courier Service” introduced a “peternity” policy last July that lets workers claim two days’ paid annual leave.” (Employers get wise to peternity leave 2007). This leave is primarily intended to care sick pets and take them to vets, which in turn, is believed to improve morale and motivation, thus increasing the productivity and work output of employees in this service industry.
Aspects of negative productivity cannot be ruled out
It could be further stated that considering the case of VMA, out of the estimated 600 workmen, for analysis sake, let us assume that 20% would like to adopt pets and avail of this benefit. Thus, 120 employees would be privileged recipients of peternity leave. What about the remaining 480 members of workforce? The discord and discontentment created due to partial allotment of leave privileges would more than negatively compensate for the larger productivity by the select 120 employees.
As most of us know, productivity, increased morale and better and improved work output depend upon group factors like motivation, commitment, and loyalty. It is not enough for just a few members of the workforce having these characteristics; it is necessary that, by and large, the whole workforce need to have positive work output qualities if things are to improve. Motivation, drive and dedication need to be imbued throughout the organisation’s work force for better performance.
Moreover, it is also necessary to consider the “implications to the business if granting paid personal leave on these occasions creates a precedent for other staff with pets, i.e. what is the potential cost if all your staff suddenly access to this special deal? 2 days additional paid leave per person per year adds 0.77% to your labour costs.” (Personal/carer’s leave for pet care 2009). Thus, in terms of additional productivity there could be the issue of additional costs incurred if leave due to sickness of pets, needing attention of vets, is treated as paid leave.
Bank of Scotland’s tryst with peternity leave
Coming to the case of United Kingdom, it is said that the decision of Bank of Scotland to give employees time off for pet care has drawn a lot of flak in recent years, and it has also been target of criticisms for allowing this bank’s employees to go on leave for flimsy reasons, when their duties were to pull the bank out of the dire financial straits which it finds itself in. Most of the shareholders find this practice irksome and the spokesman of the UK Shareholders’ Association said he is astounded by the “silly practice” (Murray 2009).
The economics of pet care costs in the UK is as follows. With more than 11 million homes having around 27 million pets, it has been estimated that a total 8 million days are being lost, costing around £127M (Murray 2009). One of the important facts is that this money is coming from citizens in the form of taxes, and thus the employees are enjoying leave at the expense of taxpayers. Under the present severe recessionary trends in UK economy, the rationale and justification of such idle time and costs are being seriously questioned, not only by the government but also by taxpaying citizens of the country.
Objectives of Peternity leave with relation to employees reward management
It could be said that the main objective of peternity leave is to show compassion to the grieving employee who has lost his pet. It aligns the bereavement of the corporate business during the grief and sorrow of its employees and thus tries to increase loyalty of grief stricken employees. The second objective is to increase the productivity and job satisfaction by showing that the employers not only care about the official work output but are also ready to provide consolation to employees during their hour of need and succour. The third objective could be that such kind of leave could reduce tension and stress in work and this would serve as a good outlet for reducing tension and making employees feel relaxed and light-hearted after attending to their new or ailing pets.
However, as has been mentioned, the coverage of pets is restricted in the Australian context. In the UK context, it is seen that strictly speaking, pets do not come under the purview of relatives, and thus, this leave cannot be claimed by law and is not mandatory. To a large extent, it would depend upon the circumstances of each case, the urgency of attending to the sick, or dying pet and the need of care from the part of the owner. By far, the most important aspect would be whether the health, safety and welfare of the pet would be severely compromised, or threatened, if not attended urgently by the concerned employee. In other words, the need for seeking abstinence from work to attend to ailing or dead pets needs to be a compelling and critical one. This may also need to be accompanied with a veterinary doctor’s certificate.
The HRM strategies that need to be adopted for improving attraction value of new employees could be as follows
- The new recruitment drives of employees could place priorities on people who own, or have decided to own pets falling within the categories allowable under the policy allowing peternity leave. Thus, employees could be motivated to own pets which could add to productivity, enterprise and loyalty to companies. “Moreover, it is seen that people who own pets suffer lower stress levels.” (Fact: dog owners live longer 2008). This could be put to good use by HR department of XYZ Company.
- It is seen that pets “offer love and companionship, and can also enjoy comfortable silences, keep secrets and are excellent snugglers. And they could be the best antidote to loneliness.” (Scott 2009). Thus, having pets could enhance the social contents of work and make people more gregarious and company loving, which is essential for group networking. Thus, the company could also think in terms of allowing restrictive use of pets in the office to boost morale and work productivity. This could also attract new pet owners and pet lovers.
- However, it should be ensured that the rules regarding eligibility and use of peternity leave need to be clearly explained to the new employees, and how their leave patterns integrate harmoniously with total work flow also needs to be decided. Many companies like Bank of Scotland allow leave, provided sufficient “cover” in terms of replacement employees is offered (Encyclopedia- animal loss 2005).
While these kinds of leave may have positive benefits for employees enjoying such privileges, it could prove costly to employers as was seen in the lawsuit relating to Royal Mail versus one of its terminated employee, David Portman (Encyclopedia- animal loss 2005).
The facts of this case were that the services of Portman were terminated during 2004, when he availed of a week’s leave after the death of his pet dog. This was a culmination of a series of absenteeism by the said employee, which affected his productivity and work output in the company. His lawyers, however, successfully argued that the earlier leaves were due to work connected injuries. Finally, his termination was sought to be unlawful since policies followed by Royal Mail envisaged that “time off following bereavement is not counted against employee’s sickness records.” (Unfairly dismissed for having time off after death of dog 2006).
Royal Mail had thus to pay a hefty amount as compensation in this lawsuit.
However, this case raised certain ethical issues regarding whether pets could be treated at par with humans in terms of their caring, illness and bereavement arising out of death.
While many people provide human love and caring to their pets and mourn their losses, the law may be clear, although implicitly, about the fact that immediate family has been defined in Act as including just the following:
“Immediate family of a national system employee means:
- a spouse, de facto partner, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild or sibling of the employee; or
- a child, parent, grandparent, grandchild or sibling of a spouse or de facto partner of the employee.” (Personal/carer’s leave for pet care: Mark D: from the act 2009).
Thus, what has not been officially included within the definition of the group cannot be said to be accepted by it. Thus, under the present circumstances, the law is clear that unless the covenant between employer and employee specifically mentions about such peternity leave and the conditionalties governing its use, the discretionary powers to allow such leave would vest with the respective HR department.
Again, while officialdom does matter, the HR department may be at liberty to sanction such leave on compassionate grounds, keeping the best interests and welfare of the employee in mind. It could also be seen in terms of the need to sanction peternity leave considering the exigencies of the circumstances and the best interests of the employers, employees and the said pet. In the event the welfare and health of the pet could be severely hampered due to non-availability of its owner or carer, it would be necessary to condone such leave.
How employee retention structures are implemented
When considering peternity leave, the management of XYZ Company needs to take into account its varied potential for meeting the long term aims and objectives of the personnel working in the company. It is also necessary to consider the pros and cons of introducing such a scheme, especially its economic framework, its implications on work culture, attendance, output and productivity of work force. Important aspects are whether cover for absenting employees would be available and the extent to which this would pose an advantage; or detriment also needs to be analyzed. This needs to be focused on present day financial and cost structures of the company.
Trend analysis also needs to be considered, preferably for next five-ten years, on the likely economic aspect of such peternity leave on Human Resource Department in particular, and the company as a distinct corporate entity. While there may be advantages for opting for this kind of a scheme, it cannot be said to have been realised, until and unless this has actually occurred. Thus, it is also necessary for qualitative and quantitative analysis to be carried out that could address such findings in real terms. For instance, it would become necessary to conduct efficiency and productivity tests to assess whether there has been marked improvement in meeting target by employees and goal realization as a direct result of higher levels of motivation and job satisfaction brought about by better enlightened HR policies, including leave policies.
The major disadvantages or threats of peternity leave also need to be identified and evaluated. For one thing, it is seen that leave allotment needs to be well regulated and monitored and also should be dealt on a case-to-case basis. Further, it is also necessary that elements of bias, or discrimination should not impact upon granting of such leave and all employees, who fulfil the criteria of years of service, or grade, need to be granted this leave, at the discretion of the management.
As has been mentioned, while the legal framework does not categorically mention pets as part of a family, the grounds for granting and availing such benefit may differ in terms of time, situation and the individuals involved. It is, however, necessary that robust policies and practices are invoked that could handle any kind of emergent situation connected with peternity leave and its applications in HR context.
Again, it should not be misused by lazy and inefficient employees who wish to use the pretext of pets for taking leave from work. The benefits that such leave could inure are difficult to reason out since there are number of factors involved. Therefore, how well these could help create better work environment, better employee relations and stronger bond between the employers and employees need to be a subject matter of further studies. For the present, it is necessary to consider what are the current practices envisaged in corporate circles and how they could be better managed in future to avoid liability on employers, loss of working days and issues arising in work flow and delegation of actions.
Another important aspect is that once such leave is determined, it becomes a standard practice and cannot be withdrawn by management at a later stage without incurring the wrath of the affected workforce. Thus, a ‘stitch in time saves nine’ written policy would be best applicable in the formulation and implementation of peternity leave “and needs to postulate its governing terms and conditions.”
Recommendations for peternity leave in XYZ Company
Perhaps the most important criterion is that the leave rules must be in writing and must form part of HR policies of the company. Further, while it is essential that peternity leave needs to be awarded on compassionate grounds, the main aspect that needs to be seen is whether it should be merged with other kinds of leave, or treated separately. In the event it is merged with other leave benefits, the rules applying to other kinds of leave shall apply. However, if treated separately the following questions need to be answered:
- To which category of workforce this would be applicable.
- The conditions applicable:
- How many minimum years of service are necessary to qualify for this kind of leave?
- To which kinds of pets does this apply and at which stage of caring?
- Maximum number of days that could be availed, yearly or at one particular time?
- Whether it is designated as paid or unpaid leave?
- What happens when employees exceed their leave quota, paid or unpaid?
- Who is the jurisdictional authority or negotiator for any disputes that may arise pertaining to such kind of leave – HR director, or mediator?
- Any other matter that could arise from time to time need to be resolved by the HR director, negotiator or someone designed to handle such cases? Name and designation to be mentioned.
By following a succinct and clear-cut method and standard practices sustainable throughout the organisation, it is believed that the full benefits of such kind of leave facility would be useful for the employers, employees and the pet for which such leave is intended.
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