Hitting the headlines is a story about someone who lost their job because they couldn't face coming into work the day after their beloved dog died. 

Many view their pets as a member of their family but there is no legal entitlement to time off work when a pet is ill or has passed away. For human dependents (see below for who is covered), a right for employees to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off work in these circumstances does currently exist. Also, it is expected that from April 2020, a new right will be introduced allowing parents to take up to two weeks' paid leave if they lose a child under the age of 18 (including a still birth after 24 weeks of pregnancy). 

Should a further right be introduced to cover pets? Many would probably welcome this but it could be difficult to define how this works in practice. Should someone qualify if their goldfish dies? What if their pet was viewed by them as more of a nuisance than a companion? 

There are also arguably many deficiencies with the current regime concerning people that need to be addressed and some might feel that this should be prioritised over pets. By way of example, the legislation defines a "dependent" as including spouses, civil partners, children and parents and it can also sometimes cover a person who lives in the same household as the employee, a person who would rely on the employee for help in the event of an accident, illness or injury and a person who relies on the employee to make care arrangements. However, this leaves notable omissions such as grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, aunts/uncles and cousins. 

Where there is no entitlement to take time off work following a death, annual leave could perhaps be used instead or, if it is the case that the individual is feeling unwell as a result, sick leave might be appropriate. Otherwise, it is down to the discretion of the employer to decide whether compassionate leave should be granted and on what terms.