Five steps to implementing a dog-friendly office policy
1. Check formalities
There will be some situations where dogs are not appropriate. For example, in a kitchen, or a manufacturing site where there is a risk of contamination. However, in many cases there will be no legal reason why a dog cannot be in the workplace. That said, check whether or not there are any restrictions outlined in the organisation’s insurance policies and rental agreements. For example, having an animal in the car might invalidate some car insurance policies, and some rented work spaces might specifically state that dogs (with the exception of assistance dogs) are not permitted.
2. Include in the risk assessment
Any dogs on the premises will need to be considered as part of the employer’s duties under health and safety legislation. A risk assessment will need to be carried out and it is important that any hazards are identified, as well as any options for harm and risk mitigation. Dogs will also need to be incorporated into the fire safety risk assessment, for example to ensure that they are not blocking emergency exits, and to detail what to do in the event of a fire. Contact us if you wish this option to be added to a risk assessment.
3. Pet-proof the workplace
There will be some logistical considerations if dogs are to be allowed in the office. For example, will the office need cleaning more regularly? Is the office ventilated sufficiently? There might be some no-go areas for dogs (office kitchens, for example) or alternatively, specific areas that are reserved for dogs and pet-loving employees. Other considerations might be ensuring that bins have lids, and that desks are equipped with a means to secure a dog lead.
4. Create a code of conduct
A clear policy will help alleviate concerns over dogs in the office. Issues to consider include the following.
- Making it clear that the dog’s owner is legally and financially responsible for any damage (to people or property), for example by ensuring that they have appropriate third-party insurance.
- Having a probationary period for any pets to ensure that the dog is happy in the work environment, and that their presence and behaviour is not unduly distracting.
- Setting ground rules about what constitutes acceptable behaviour, it is unlikely to be acceptable for a dog to rush around, bark, or be over-protective of their owner. Bear in mind, it might be necessary to have ground rules for other employees, too.
- Setting out any requirements for welfare responsibilities, such as feeding, how frequently bedding is changed, and where food is kept.
- Requiring up-to-date vaccinations, regular treatment for ticks and mites, and not allowing dogs into the office if they are ill.
- Outlining that the owner is responsible for the dog at all times, and what should happen if the dog needs to be left for any period of time.
- Only having dogs in the office when appropriate, for example, not if their owner is in an all-day meeting and cannot provide the necessary attention.
- Considering whether there should be a rota, or other means of limiting the number of dogs in the workplace.
- Setting rules on whereabouts the dog can be, including, for example, whether they are allowed in when staff with allergies or phobias are also present.
- Making it clear what happens if any rules are broken.
5. Make sure you have staff support
Finally, before allowing dogs to work, check that it is supported by other members of staff. As well as gauging general support levels for any change in policy, it is important to understand if any staff have a reason for not wanting a dog nearby. It is also imperative to have a clear policy for dealing with staff concerns and complaints.
Having dogs in the office does not need to be a cause for concern if proper steps are followed and there is a clear policy in place. Although it might take time to set up, in the long-term it is likely to lead to happier pet-owners and an overall improvement to the workplace and staff morale.
All we need to do now is get a dog!
Contact us should you require a risk assessment or to discuss the blog in more detail.