Pet-Friendly Benefits: 4 Employee Perks for Pet Lovers
January 29, 2020
Jill Garrison
Timer  Read Time: 8 minutes

Whether you prefer to ‘boop the snoot’ or ‘cuddle the floof’ (did we miss any trendy pet expressions?)—it’s no secret that pets are popular.

48 million households own dogs—that’s 40% of the entire U.S. household population! Another 32 million households own cats.

With popularity comes specialized products and services to fill market gaps—and the pet space is no exception. As the prevalence of pets and pet-friendly workplaces has grown, so have the products and services that cater to pet lovers of all backgrounds.

What pet perks are available for employers, and how much will it cost you to launch a pet-friendly program? Find out in our complete guide to pet-friendly employee benefits.

1.) Paw-ternity Leave

Adopting a new pet is an exciting time! Welcoming a new furry friend into your home, lots of playtime, and introducing your new pet to family and friends is a whirlwind of excitement.

However, as anyone that has adopted a new pet knows—it’s not all face licks and puppy cuddles. Bringing a new pet home can be a pretty hectic time. Shopping for new supplies, going to pick up your new pet, spending time with your new pet as he/she acclimates to the new environment… and ultimately losing lots of sleep in the process.

This is exactly why some companies have started offering ‘paw-ternity’ leave. As the name suggests, this time off perk (usually paid, but can be unpaid) allows employees to have a set amount of time off to adapt to life with a new fur baby. Or, alternatively, this time could be used to take care of a sick pet, like if your pet needs to have surgery.

As a relatively new employee benefit, there’s not a ton of information available about how many companies offer this type of leave or even specific details about how much time companies are offering, utilization rates, etc.—but we’ve pulled what we can to help fill the gaps.

Though pets are a common interest among all demographics, ‘pawternity’ leave typically appeals to younger (see also: kid-free) employees—though it could also easily apply to anyone growing their fur fam; the main point being that this is a popular perk to attract millennials.

The good news? Providing ‘pawternity’ leave is relatively low cost compared to other benefits; you’re essentially just giving employees a personalized new PTO option.

Here are a few things to consider when crafting and launching a ‘pawternity’ leave policy: 

  • What pets will be included in the policy?
  • How much time will be given?
  • Is this a one-time/per pet lump sum, or will days off accrue over time?
  • Will this time off be paid or unpaid?
  • Will you require verification of pet adoption? If so, what is it, and what’s the submission process?
  • To give you an idea of what employers are offering, check out these companies that provide ‘pawternity’ leave:

Mars Petcare—one of the first companies to tout a paid pawternity policy, employees receive 10 hours of paid time off.

Mparticle—this data platform provider incentivizes rescues by offering two weeks of paid leave to any employee that adopts a rescue dog.

BitSol Solutions—a tech company based in Manchester, this org offers a full week of paid time off to employees that get a new pet.

BrewDog—this Scottish brewery embraces their namesake with a week of paid leave for employees that get a new dog.

Musti Group—a pet food brand in Sweden that stays true to their roots with three days of paid leave for new pet parents.

Harper Collins—another leader promoting adoptions, this India-based company provides five days of paid leave for rescue adoptions.

2.) Pet Insurance

The average vet bill is $253, and the average household spends $410 per year on veterinary visits. Of course, this could quickly add up if your pet experiences a serious or life-threatening injury—like a broken bone or accident that requires surgery.

And the demand is there—the pet insurance market has grown 15% over the past five years and is forecast to hit $10 billion by 2025.

The best news is—this voluntary benefit is typically 100% employee funded. Of course, if you happen to be a brand or have a culture that is very pet-oriented, you might consider covering a portion or all of the cost of this for employees. Typically, however, companies offer this as true voluntary coverage.

Speaking of price, how much does pet insurance actually cost? Well, just like any other insurance product, the cost is fairly individualized. Pricing is based on the type of pet/specific breed, age and existing conditions. Your employees can expect to pay around $30 per month for a cat and around $50 per month for a dog (via ValuePenguin).

If you’re wondering how the pricing and payments work, here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Employee or employer pays a premium each month to secure coverage
  • Treatments are either fully or partially covered by insurance
  • Depending on the policy, the vet may front the cost and bill insurance after, or the pet owner might pay for the procedure/visit and then file a claim for reimbursement
  • Some policies have a deductible that must be met before insurance applies (ex: $500)
  • Policies also typically have an annual maximum that the insurer will cover each year (ex: $10,000); charges above the max will be paid out of pocket

As with other plans and policies, certain conditions may or may not be covered. Be sure this information is clearly outlined and readily available for employees. Examples of conditions or services that might not be covered under a pet insurance policy include:

  • Grooming
  • Behavioral therapy/training
  • Preexisting or hereditary conditions
  • Dental care/disease
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Routine check-ups/preventative care

The market is becoming saturated with pet insurance companies as traditional insurance companies and new startups jump on the bandwagon (band-waggin’?). That being said, it shouldn’t be too hard to find a reliable and affordable pet insurance provider that can work with you. Here are a few top-rated companies that offer pet insurance:

Of course, be sure to reach out to your broker or adviser for a personalized recommendation.

3.) Pet Bereavement Leave

“When folks lose a pet or families lose a pet it is like losing a family member, especially when they have been there for 15, sometimes 20 years. That is seeing kids through every grade of school, or graduation or seeing families through marriages or having children, they are there quietly through all these different events in people’s lives, and they attach those emotions to all those experiences so it is understandable why it takes a little while to recover from a loss,” says Dr. Elizabeth Whitsett, Veterinarian.

When pets die, nearly 1 out of 3 people grieve and feel sadness for at least six months, according to a 2009 study of 100+ pet owners in the Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic. About 20% experience the same shock, disbelief or anger as people who are grieving another person’s death. Losing a pet can be a devastating life event, and providing dedicated time off can help validate grief and give employees space and time to heal.

Though dedicated pet bereavement is still rather rare, here’s a short list of what companies are offering: 

Kimpton — three days of paid time off

Mars — one paid day off day + flexible schedule

VMware — unlimited time off for salaried employees

Maxwell Health — unlimited flexible schedule as needed

Trupanion — three days of paid time off

Shoppers Drug Mart —unpaid day(s) off

In general, we are seeing companies offer one to three paid days off for pet bereavement.

Some speculate—is dedicated pet bereavement ‘fair’? Does it exclude non-pet owners from additional PTO? Just as with ‘paw-ternity’ leave, a dedicated pet-friendly policy is a great option to tie perks with your organizational culture. It validates the importance of pets and aligns this priority with the company values.

4.) Pet-Friendly Office

Did you know—the week after Father’s Day is National “Take Your Pet To Work Week”? Created by Pet Sitters International (PSI), the event launched in 1998 to create awareness about the perks of having a pet-friendly workplace and to promote pet adoptions. Over twenty years later, the tradition holds strong as organizations across the globe embrace furry friends in their workplaces.

Why allow pets in the workplace to begin with? Well, studies have shown that pets in the workplace can reduce stress and provide social support. One study even demonstrated that dogs in the workplace accounted for lower levels of depression and higher work performance.

Another study by Nationwide reported that pet-friendly companies are more likely to attract, engage and retain employees.

Of course, allowing pets in the workplace is definitely not a great fit or even a feasible option for every organization. Here are a few things to consider before passing a pet-friendly workplace policy: 

  • Does anyone in the office have pet allergies?
  • How many pets will be allowed in the office at once?
  • What type of pets are allowed in the workplace?
  • Would anyone find pets distracting and hinder work?
  • Are there employees that simply do not want pets in the workplace?
  • Will employees have the flexibility to walk pets and tend to their needs while working?

It’s important to consider the scary truth that not all employees are animal lovers. Just because you or a majority of your employees might be fur fans, not everyone is. Or, maybe they are but they simply do not want pets in and around the workplace—and that’s ok!

The best way to assess if passing a pro-pet policy is a good fit for your office is to survey employees to get the lay of the land. Once you have a feel for how a pet-friendly policy would fly with employees, it’s time to design your pet policy.

Will you have dedicated ‘pet-friendly’ spaces in the office? Will you require pets to remain on a leash? Is there a cap on the amount of pets that can be in the office at once? How will you keep track of and manage pets in the office?

Launching a pet-friendly office initiative is a lot more complicated than simply sending a mass email announcing the new policy; take the time to put thought into crafting rules and guidelines to keep the workplace a welcoming and professional place for everyone.

Are pets an important part of your company culture? If so, crafting a meaningful pet policy and offering dedicated pet perks are just two small ways you can better connect with employees and tie in benefits to your overall company culture and values.

Is your company pro-pet? If so, what pet-friendly employee benefits have you introduced?

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