Dogs and cats are part of the family. So one Minnesota company decided to make it official, offering employees time off to welcome home a fur baby.
Introducing fur-ternity leave.
Minneapolis-based digital marketing agency Nina Hale just may be the first business to make a pet-related leave an official company benefit. The new fur-ternity policy allows employees with new pets (defined as any animal that doesn’t primarily live in a cage or tank) to take a week of work-from-home days in order to ease the transition (and minimize the nibbling on curtains).
“Families come in all different shapes and sizes – as do new babies in a household,” says Allison McMenimen, EVP of client services at Nina Hale. “We want to celebrate [our diverse workforce] by making sure there are policies that enable everyone to support their definition of family.”
The realization that Nina Hale could do more to accommodate different versions of families – including the idea of pets as “fur babies” – came after Connor McCarthy, a senior account manager, asked for some flexibility when he and his partner brought home their new Goldendoodle puppy, Bentley.
McCarthy was worried about getting Bentley adjusted to his new home.
“Figuring out who could be there to watch and bond with him in the beginning would have been difficult,” McCarthy says. “But the agency's flexibility in allowing me to work remotely that first week was truly amazing.”
Nina Hale employee Connor McCarthy's new fur baby, a Goldendoodle named Bentley.
According to a 2016 report by Fortune there’s been a rise in businesses offering pet health insurance and/or allowing pets to be brought to work. Additionally, an article published earlier this summer by the Society for Human Resource Management noted the idea of what’s more commonly called “pawternity leave” is indeed a growing trend.
However, neither Rhonda Blum, HR business advisor for the Management Association (a Midwest employers organization referred to as MRA) nor Sue Kruse, president of the Twin Cities Society for Human Resource Management, know of any companies in this area that have implemented an official fur-ternity benefit, like Nina Hale.
Rachel Mairose, of the Eden Prairie pet shelter and adoption organization Secondhand Hounds, gives fur-ternity leave a big paws up. She says it’s important to have time to bond with an animal, and learn its quirks.
“One of the worst ways to bring a pet into your home is by leaving them right away in an unknown environment,” Mairose says. “Having that first few days dedicated to bonding is a great way to start off a long lasting and happy relationship with your new animal!”
Based on results of an employee survey inspired by the fur-ternity idea, Nina Hale added other new benefits including an increase in employees’ monthly commuter stipend from $50 to $83 to cover the entirety of a monthly Metro pass and an entire week of remote work between Christmas and New Year’s so that staff doesn’t have to take paid time off. The company is also launching a program through which staff can request $100 in reimbursement for wellness-related expenses ranging from massages, to pedicures, new books, babysitters, family meals, and more.
Pre-existing benefits at Nina Hale include up to 12 weeks paternity and maternity leave, a minimum of 18 days of PTO per year, year-round 1 p.m. Friday end times, and an allotment of summer season remote work days – just this year doubled from two to four per month.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about balancing employee happiness, health and wellness and the best possible work for our clients,” says McMenimen. “We know the agency’s output is connected to health and happiness of our staff – so it’s our job to manage both.”