The University of KwaZuluNatal (UKZN) has introduced a new pet-bereavement policy – allowing staff a day off to mourn a departed dog, cat or any other animal which was close to them.
According to a report by the Sunday Times, the policy – which applies to employees’ registered pets – came into effect in April 2018.
UKZN spokesperson Normah Zondo explained that for many university staff their pets were like family and this resonated with the leadership of the university.
Speaking to the paper, Librarian Ashika Pramlal said that she took pet-bereavement leave when her dog died in June. She had to plan his funeral and burial according to Hindu rites and mourn his loss.
Ishana Gangaram, an administration officer at the university, also took bereavement leave when her pet died in April.
While pet-bereavement and ‘pawternity’ leave (when pet owners adopt a new animal) is increasingly being offered in countries such as the US, Canada, Norway, Sweden and Finland – it is still a relatively new concept in South Africa.
As such, lawyer Jonathan Jones warned that the system may be open to abuse and that employers should know what they were getting themselves into.
“Employees could argue attachment to other types of pets such as rabbits, rats or birds or even cold-blooded pets such as reptiles, snakes or fish,” he said.