Allow me to make a very important distinction here!
If one of your employees requires a guide dog or assistance animal, you must not discriminate against that employee in any way. This is clearly outlined in legislation in the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and reviewed in a discussion paper by the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2003.
However, if one of your employees is a volunteer who is training a guide dog, you are not obligated to allow the guide dog in your workplace if it is not appropriate or suitable for the workplace or for the puppy.
Guide Dog puppy volunteers must adhere to extremely strict guidelines to ensure they provide great training to potential guide dogs. This puppy training starts at 8 weeks of age and volunteers:
- are expected to follow guidelines relating to their residence and workplace.
- need to get written permission from their employer to take a puppy to work as outlined by Guide Dog Victoria.
- should not work full time as they need to be flexible during the day and have adequate time for the puppy.
Advocacy group Disability Aid Dogs promote training standards of assistance animals/dogs and recognise the need for the dog to be under control of the handler and not left alone.
If one of your employees would like to bring a puppy in training into your workplace they need to put the request in writing. As the employer or manager, you have the discretion to decide if your workplace is suitable for the puppy. Will it be beneficial or detrimental for the puppy and for the workplace? Employees should determine whether or not they have approval prior to going through the volunteer application process so that they know your response before they receive the puppy and it's associated obligations.
If there are no safety or physical reasons why a puppy shouldn’t be in the office, think carefully before you say no. A joyful bundle of Labrador fluff brings great joy and can improve morale and well-being in your workplace. Not only that, you are allowing an employee to provide a tremendous service in helping get these fur babies ready for a life of love and service. Supporting your employee’s volunteering is another really powerful way of providing a flexible and positive work environment and that’s only going to be good for your business!
Contact the HR Staff n' Stuff team on 03 9590 0844 or email if you need to know more about regulations relating to Assistance Animals in the workplace or if you want to develop a well-being program for your team.