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Mental Health, Animals in The Workplace

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Mental Health, Animals in The Workplace, Unfair Dismissal Australia
Dealing with mental health is clearly a challenge, nnimals are here to help

Animals in the workplace, animals in our lives are important, a step back first.

Animals in the workplace, what a great topic, every recession and tragedy in history has shown that people consequently suffer great detriment and negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing, due to harsh economic circumstances. The possible mental health impacts correlated with the imminent economic recession and the coronavirus pandemic is a prominent topic of discussion amongst health professionals and government.

With such alarming forecasted figures of the psychological toll on Australians, as a direct result of COVID-19, we are increasingly concerned for our Australian workforce. Animals are important in developing menu strategies in dealing with mental health both in and out of the workplace.

Day in, day out, we hear the stories of employees from all over Australia who suffer from poor mental health as either a result of hostile and unsupportive work environments or extraneous circumstances. Redundancies, unfair dismissals, discrimination sexual harassment in these dark times is on the increase. With the projected statistics pertaining to declining mental health, it is imperative that employers create safe and compassionate work environments for their more vulnerable employees.

An increasingly popular method of treating anxiety is to have service dogs or companion animals as they can help ease the effects of panic attacks, provide a sense of calm and even get your medication for you if need be. Other animals that have scientifically proven to help people reduce their anxiety and stress levels are rabbits, fish, guinea pigs, horses and cats. Considering your work may be the most stressful part of your life and the biggest cause for anxiety, you would want your anxiety animal to accompany you. But how appropriate is it to bring your emotional support animal present with you in your workplace?   

We previously had a client who was dismissed from her employment for bringing in her support dog to work. This made us curious as to whether employers would see a rise in employees wanting to bring their support animals to the workplace after COVID-19 and the subsequent economic depression. Would it be fair to discriminate against an employee who simply uses an animal in the stead of medication which could impair cognitive functioning or have other health side effects? Is it our human right to be able to treat our illnesses in the way that we think is best?

Animals reduce stress

Many people feel stress. Research shows that just patting a pet can ease stress and reduce your blood pressure. Even watching fish swimming in an aquarium reduces stress. It can also help you relax and practise mindfulness.

Animals provide companionship

Pets can be affectionate, accepting, loyal, honest and consistent. If you feel isolated with little support, a pet can help reduce your loneliness.

Animals fulfill the human need to touch

Most people feel better when they have physical contact with others. Simply patting a pet can lower your heart rate.

Animals require routine and organization

Most pets require a routine of feeding, cleaning and exercise. This can give you purpose and motivation which can help your self-esteem, wellbeing and mental health.

Animals provide a sense of purpose

A pet can provide you with a sense of purpose, which helps improve mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. If you have a pet, you are never alone and you are also responsible for looking after them.

Animals increase your social interaction

Pets create opportunities for better social interaction, especially if you join an animal club or attend pet shows. Going to pet-friendly events, beaches or parks can also help increase your social network. You could make new friends just by taking your dog for a walk or waiting at the vet, due to the shared interest in your pets.

If you have a fear of social situations, or social phobia, a pet can help with slowly introducing you to other people who also have pets and enhance your mental health.

Animals improve your fitness (dog owners)

If you own a dog, they need regular walks, and this exercise is good for you too. Exercise, like walking, has many benefits for your mental health and wellbeing. You can also use the time walking your dog to improve your fitness and make the most of the outdoors to help you further develop mindfulness and relaxation.

Studies have shown that dog ownership is linked with a lower risk of death over the long term, which is possibly due to a reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease.

If you have a fear of social situations, or social phobia, a pet can help with slowly introducing you to other people who also have pets and enhance your mental health.

Concerns and outcomes raised have to be rational and reasonable

Our answer to this is to be rational and reasonable. If you currently or will benefit and rely on a support animal in the future and you wish to bring them into your workplace, we suggest you have a healthy and open conversation with your employer on whether this would be appropriate and whether it could be facilitated.

It might be interesting for you to know that one of the biggest American corporations, Amazon, allows their Australian employees to bring their pet animals into work! Unfortunately, it will most likely not be appropriate if you work as a nurse in aged care or a hospital, or in any workplace that requires the highest level of hygiene.

We sincerely hope employers will open their minds to the reality of the serious mental health concerns we will be facing in the near future in light of COVID-19 and the economic downturn. If, however, you feel as if you have been unfairly dismissed for exercising your human right to bring your support animal to work, give us a call immediately and we will do our best to help protect your rights.

We are A Whole New Approach P/L, we are not lawyers but the nations leading workplace advisors, if we can help in any way, give us a call, it free, confidential, prompt. 1800 333 666. Any Fair work Commission matters, including unfair dismissal, general protections, redundancy, workplace investigations give us a call now. We work in all states, Victoria, NSW, QLD, SA, WA, NT, Tas

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