Most of us will have suffered the terrible experience of losing a pet. Many do not understand the pain that comes from the death of your animal, but for pet lovers the mourning is very real, and very painful.

In the midst of the mourning of your pet, you continue with life, you head back to work and you try to put the loss of your fury friend to the back of your mind.

However, pet wellness experts, Itch, believe this shouldn’t be the case. Itch have partnered with Robin Grey, author of ‘Coping with Pet Loss’ to provide advice for employers on implementing a pet bereavement policy.

The policy would encourage employers to give paid leave to staff if their per dies.

The campaign has been inspired by the efforts of Emma McNulty, who in 2019 petitioned for pet bereavement policy after she was fired for calling in sick when her dog passed away.

Understanding pet bereavment

Itch are hoping to change the narrative around pet bereavement, a subject that is often misunderstood and often mocked despite 58% of Brits saying losing a pet is a similar trauma to losing a family member, and 74% believing employers should have a pet bereavement policy in place.

Nearly three quarters of Brits would say that their pet is a valued member of the family, and over two in five say their pet means as much to them as family and friends.

Despite there being no current legal requirement to grant bereavement leave for a pet, the majority of people in the UK think this should be the case.

Robin Grey, Itch panellist, counsellor, psychotherapist and author of ‘Coping with Pet Loss’, said: “As humans, our experience of loss can be profound and touch us in ways that we did not expect. We may need time to mourn, and, in some cases, it can feel like we will never recover.

“For many of us, our pets are a valued member of the family and therefore the death of one can seem like one of the hardest losses. There is hope, though. By examining ourselves and our own grief, it is possible to see that this often-unpredictable loss can draw us closer to others that have shared the same experience.”

How to cope

Coping with the loss of your pet is a difficult and challenging time. When losing a companion, you may have had for many years it is normal to feel overwhelmed and upset. Robin Grey has put together some tips on how to cope with your loss:

•   Accept that not everyone may understand the loss you are going through

•   See your loss as being valid and important to mourn

•   Don’t rush into getting a new pet. Wait until you are ready

•   Consider having a ceremony or remembrance for your pet as a positive way of marking their gift to you in life

•   If your loss has coincided with another loss or major life change, consider getting further help, such as talking therapy or counselling

Sapan Sehgal, Founder of London Fields Fitness Studio, commented: “As a business owner with the majority of staff who are pet owners, not only do I understand how important it is to look after their physical and emotional wellbeing, but to also be sensitive to their needs relating to their pet.

“If someone needs time to grieve then who am I to decide if their love and pain for a pet is or isn’t as ‘real’ as a human. I wholeheartedly support the action Itch is taking and I’m happy to introduce this policy for my staff, as I will always respect the feelings and needs of my employees when they face loss and I encourage other businesses to do likewise.”

Andrew Pinnington, CEO at Itch commented: “Here at Itch, we know that pets are like family to our employees. Therefore, our benefits include paw-ternity leave when an employee gets a new pet, a gift for the new family member, birthday treats for pets and even time off to volunteer with pet-related charities. The death of a beloved pet can impact us in ways we are not prepared for, so we took action to include paid time off within our benefits.

“Now we are encouraging other businesses to implement pet bereavement policies within their workplaces, with the goal of helping facilitate sensitive conversations and ensuring that grieving employees feel as comfortable as possible.”

Head to the Itch website for more information on how to introduce a pet bereavement policy at your workplace, and for more advice on coping with pet loss.