An employee of an Italian university in Rome has successfully obtained a two-day paid leave of absence from work to care for his pet dog, which had undergone surgery and required special assistance for an additional day to recover. The Italian animal rights association, LAV, advised the employee on submitting his successful request to the university.

Pursuant to the National Collective Bargaining Agreement (NCBA) which applied to the employee in this case, paid leave of absence may be given where the employee can demonstrate and document a “serious personal or family-related reason“ for the absence. LAV argued that pet care should be considered as falling within the category of a “serious personal reason”. In addition, under well-established Italian law, an employee has the right to paid leave from work, and is therefore not required to take such a day as holiday, where the absence is caused, for example, by the severe illness or death of a relative. This law has never been extended to pets, until now. A very similar case occurred in Italy in 2010, when an employee of a school in Milan asked for paid leave of absence to take care of his cat. In that case, the employee’s request was denied by the school, to the disappointment of several animal rights associations.

Heightened sensibility to animal rights is undeniable and the decision of the university in this recent case represents an important precedent, both from a legal and social perspective, highlighting that an employee may have the right to demand a paid leave of absence from work to care for a pet. However, it is to be hoped that a specific legislative provision will be implemented on this point (either by law or at NCBA level), in order to grant legal certainty and avoid any possible misapplication.

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