If you’ve searched through LegalVision’s website, you would have been lucky enough to see a particularly gorgeous member of staff. I am talking, of course, of our happiness officer, Pearl. And while us Visionaries are lucky enough to have this perfect ball of fluff walking through our offices on a regular occasion (not to mention begging for food and demanding belly rubs), there are some legal issues you should consider before uploading Fido’s photo to your business’ “about us” section.

1. Property Issues

Regardless of whether you own or lease your business premises, your legal documents will govern your terms of use, namely the lease/sublease and/or the strata regulations and bylaws. It’s common for such documents to dictate whether you can keep pets on premises, and any conditions of use. For inner-city office buildings particularly, the strata is likely to be pretty clear and along the lines of ‘strictly no pets’. If the documents say no, unfortunately, little Fido will need to stay at home.

2. Workplace Health and Safety

Employers have obligations under the workplace health and safety laws, and common law generally, to provide a safe work environment. Accordingly, if someone in your team has allergies or little Fido is known to give the postman the occasional nip, it’s foreseeable that his little doggie presence could pose a risk, which could ultimately leave the employer liable if something goes wrong.

3. Noise Issues

Strate regulations/by-laws and local council regulations cover any noise issues. If Fido has a loud bark and barks often, this could result in neighbours lodging a complaint and taking action.

4. Common Law Negligence

At common law, people have a duty to their ‘neighbor’ to prevent damage or loss that is ‘reasonably foreseeable’. This duty would extend to the workplace. Accordingly, any damage Fido causes could result in a common law claim of negligence, for which the damages claims are unlimited.

5. Contractual and Policy Issues

Most employment relationships are governed by a written contract and internal policy documents which often contain warranties provided on the employer’s behalf. Any such obligation to provide a safe and healthy workplace could add another limb to a potential claim, this time in the contract.

Dogs make the world a better place. Fact. In our humble opinion, they also make the workplace a whole lot happier and just generally better looking. But if you want to add a dose of that happiness to your workplace, there are some issues to consider. We recommend before you introduce Fido, and give him his official title, you should think about his behavior, consult your staff and check the paperwork and, if no one raises any issues, obtain waivers.

Now, who wants a belly rub?

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Questions about whether your building permits an office pup? Let us know on 1300 544 755.

Emma Jervis

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