Over 10,000 supporters for petition to adjust bereavement leave to include rights when pets die

A woman who was fired from her job for not showing up for work due to the death of her dog, has started a petition which currently has over 17,000 supporters, for the right to bereavement leave when an employee experiences the loss of a pet.

Emma McNulty, an 18 year-old student from Glasgow, was sacked from her part-time job in a sandwich shop for not showing up for work.  She attempted to find someone who could cover her shift but to no avail and therefore lost her job.

Ms McNulty, claimed she was physically sick when her pet passed on. She also lost her job on the same day she lost her dog.

In response to this, she has started a petition called change.org to “allow bereavement leave from work following the death of a family pet.”

At the time of press, the petition has 17,007 signatures.

Ms McNulty via her petition page said:

Following her unexpected death I informed my manager I could not come in to work as I was too devastated and physically sick to do so. Instead of being shown the compassion and sympathy stated in the contract I was sent a number of nasty messages and told I had to cover my shift as no bereavement time was allowed for pets. I did not go to work that day and I was recently fired and left unemployed the same day as loosing my best friend, this caused me extreme distress and sickness.

I think it’s disgusting how some company’s think it’s acceptable to treat someone in this way with no remorse, a family pet (in my case my dog) has just as much importance as a human family member.

Kate Palmer, associate director of advisory at global employment law consultancy, Peninsula said:

Currently, there is no legal requirement for employers to allow their employees any time off work when their pet dies and, currently, no right to any form of bereavement leave at all.

How companies will respond to this situation will depend upon the views of management and the demands of the business. Some managers may be sympathetic to their employee’s loss and be willing to let them take the time, whilst others may be less so.

However, employers should not underestimate the impact that the loss of a pet can have on their employees and, in particular, how much work they are going to be able to feasibly do on the day. If an employee feels that they will be unfairly judged for being honest with their employer, they may simply ‘throw a sickie’, something that can be very difficult to disprove.

Ms Palmer does go onto say that employers do reserve the right to discipline individuals who are not working “to the required standard, and so they should tread carefully.”

Acas, the non-department public body, which is an advisory, conciliation and arbitration service explained that the law gives a “day one right for an employee to have reasonable time off work.”

An Acas spokesperson said:

Dealing with bereavement can impact a person’s mental health. Pets are not specifically mentioned within workplace bereavement legislation but the death of a beloved pet can impact a worker’s mental health and a good employer should be sensitive and mindful of their employees’ wellbeing.

Interested in wellbeing in the workplace We recommend the Workplace Wellbeing and Stress Forum 2019.





Darius is the editor of HRreview. He has previously worked as a finance reporter for the Daily Express. He studied his journalism masters at Press Association Training and graduated from the University of York with a degree in History.