Pet insurer Petplan has revealed that approximately 5% of new UK pet owners have been offered the opportunity by their employer to take time off of work to care for their furry friends.

One company with a “pawternity” policy is BitSol Solutions, a tech-support business based in Manchester. The owner states that staff with a new pet are able to take up to one week of paid leave.

Across the globe, birth rates are declining, divorce rates remain high and living alone is becoming the norm. In many cases furry friends are filling the emotional void and are taking on a greater level of importance in the lives of their owners. Indeed, they’re now widely regarded as an integral part of the family unit: according to Mintel’s report Pet Food UK 2015, 81% of pet owners say they agree or strongly agree that they treat their pet like a member of the family.

In light of this shift, brands and businesses have created services that cater to owners who want to share everyday experiences, such as dining out or grocery shopping with their pets. And this movement is being given greater credence as governments and companies take note of the powerful bond between pet and owner and introduce policies or legislate to accommodate this. For example, Shoppers Drug Mart is a Canadian company offering time off to employees suffering from the loss of a pet.

Petplan’s findings show that businesses in the UK are following suit. This move makes sense as owners already have experience taking time off work to care for their four legged friends. According to Mintel’s report Britain’s Pet Owners UK 2015, nearly one in five pet owners have stayed at home with a sick pet or have missed work to take care of a pet.

With the status of pets continuing to rise and pet owners coming to expect greater flexibility to cater to this, brands and businesses will need to adapt their products and services to appeal equally to both humans and animals. With pet owners feeling more empowered, it’ll no longer be an option to treat cats or dogs as an afterthought – especially not when trying to attract the lucrative “pet pound”.

Catherine Cottney, Trends Manager Europe at Mintel, works at the forefront of detecting trends, innovations and consumer behaviour from across the globe and manages a team of contributors in the Asia-Pacific region. She has provided analysis on topical issues and events from a Trends perspective for a number of media outlets and publications including BBC Radio 4ʼs Today programme, the Financial Times and Women & Home.