Dogs at work: the insurance risks

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insurance risks of pets at work

Dog-friendly businesses and pet owners are “unaware of the pitfalls of taking dogs into work could find themselves facing costly lawsuits”, an insurance risk expert has warned.

Lynne Fisher, of animal-related businesses insurance broker Cliverton, believes dogs in the workplace could become a more widespread occurrence with their proven role in improving employee wellbeing.

According to Fisher, this has heightened the need for employers and dog-owning staff to be fully aware of their responsibilities.

“Unless a policy stipulates that it is the owner who bears legal and financial responsibility for any injuries incurred, it is the business that will be deemed liable”

“The Health and Safety at Work Act requires employers to ensure the safety, health and welfare – so far as is reasonably practicable – of its personnel and others,” she said.

“Companies should therefore have a detailed policy in place that offers guidance and sets out clear procedures.

“The possibility of dogs injuring employees is one of the key risks of a dogs-in-the-office scheme. Even where owners provide written assurances that their dogs are obedience trained and have a good temperament, there is still the potential for them to bite if they are triggered by something in an unfamiliar work environment.”

“Unless a policy stipulates that it is the owner who bears legal and financial responsibility for any injuries incurred, it is the business that will be deemed liable. In some cases this could result in an expensive legal action.”

Fisher stressed the necessity of company-wide surveys to determine whether workforces are in favour of the introduction of dogs and said permission should only be granted if there is unanimous agreement, and no members of staff have dog allergies.

Expensive IT equipment is a feature of most places of work and could easily be damaged by dogs. To avoid having to absorb the costs themselves, Fisher pointed out employers should ensure dog-owning staff sign indemnification agreements making them responsible for the cost of any damages.

“There are many positives arising from bringing dogs into the workplace”

“In addition to a dogs-in-work policy, a thorough risk assessment should be conducted that covers all eventualities and scenarios, even down to meetings being disturbed by barking.

“Should businesses harbour concerns or uncertainties, advice should be sought from a specialist insurance adviser that has experience in this field.

“There are many positives arising from bringing dogs into the workplace and having a policy and risk assessment in place can help ensure it is a safe and pleasant experience for all concerned.”

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