An employee in Italy took two days off work, not as holiday but to care for her dog which was unwell after an operation. The employer didn't pay her; after all, she was capable of working and wasn't sick herself. An Italian Court has now ordered the employer to pay the employee two days' pay for her absence. Ruff justice, or barking mad? 

Let's paws for thought. Do employees in the UK have a legal right to paid time off to look after unwell pets? The answer for now is no.

Sick pay entitlements apply when the employees themselves are unwell, not their pets. Employees do have a statutory right to take time off work in emergency situations to look after a dependant. The law defines a "dependant" as a parent, child, spouse, civil partner, or certain persons living in the same household as the employee, i.e. humans, not pets. Moreover, the right is to take unpaid leave, not to be paid as normal. 

This means that whilst "the dog ate my homework" might still be a valid excuse when late with assignments, "my dog is feeling unwell" is not a legal basis for an employee to get paid time off. Of course, employers don't have to take this dogmatic line and can (and do) use their discretion to grant paid or unpaid time off to deal with pet-emergencies. 

(Apologies for all terrible dog-related puns in this blog.)