Scottish Employment lawyer urges caution against refusing animals in the workplace this National Pet Month

Liam Entwistle (WJM)

A SCOTTISH employment solicitor has warned that employers should refuse Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) in the workplace with care and caution, or they could be in breach of workers’ rights under the Equality Act 2010. 

Speaking this National Pet Month (April), Liam Entwistle, employment law specialist at Wright, Johnston & Mackenzie LLP (WJM) said employers must be cautious when it comes to staff members who wish to bring animals into the office. 

The solicitor said employers should not refuse such a request without seeking legal advice, as this could ultimately place them at risk of breaching other legislation that fall under the Equality Act. 

Liam, who is also Chair of WJM, said: “There may come a point where, especially when it comes to ESAs, the Equality Act 2010 comes into play. If a disabled staff member requests the right to bring their ESA into a workplace, an employer must always consider whether or not it is reasonable to make that adjustment. 

“While there is no specific employment law protection when it comes to allowing animals in the workplace, it is very much up to the employer whether this is something they will allow. It’s also not just dogs that employers have to consider when it comes to ESAs.”

The Equality Act 2010 legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace, and obliges employers to make a reasonable adjustment if something in the workplace causes a disadvantage. Disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that has substantial and long-term effects on the ability to perform normal daily activities. 

ESAs differ from service animals, such as guide dogs, in that they don’t need any training or qualification. This makes it more difficult to determine their necessity.  

Entwistle continued: “The extent of what can be considered a reasonable adjustment will depend on the circumstances and as with all other areas of employment law, finding a resolution begins and ends with effective communication.  

“It’s important for employers not to immediately say ‘no,’ because then they’re opening themselves up to claims from someone who may have a legitimate reason.  It’s also a topic that can also spark a very emotional reaction.

“The key is to treat it like any other request, to consider its pros and cons, and not to be triggered by an immediate reaction. Treat it as a data-driven process then make a decision which is reasonable and lawful.” 


For more information on WJM go to   

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