2017 Employee Benefits Trend: It’s Raining Cats and Dogs

Posted by Gracie Arnold on March 30, 2017

Even the worst HR managers know that employee benefits and perks help acquire and retain quality talent. To remain attractive to top talent, companies are implementing innovative, non-traditional benefit programs. These benefit plans aren’t just for the two-legged employee anymore. Voluntary benefit providers can join employer benefit menus by catering to the needs of employee pets.

Employee Spending Behavior

An estimated 62% of Americans own a pet of some kind. That means look around the office, six out of ten employees are caring for a little fluff ball when they go home. Pet ownership is also on the rise so expect more puppy pics around the office.

Cute chihuahua sitting on desk next to a fashion designer.jpegPet owners are their own breed when it comes to spending habits. Pet spending is at an all-time high at over 60 billion for 2016. And expect spending on chew bones, tennis balls, bejeweled collars, and all other pet needs to continue to increase. Not only that, but even when there’s a financial downturn, pet owners give up personal luxuries before they stop pampering their pet. Voluntary benefit providers are beginning to capitalize on these spending trends. Employers can meet employee needs through their pets to increase talent acquisition and retention.

Here’s how pet-related employee benefits are teaching an old dog new tricks:

Pet Insurance

Cute dog at the vet with a group of doctors and assistants.jpeg

Unexpected veterinary costs can leave pet owners in debt or with emotionally difficult decision of denying treatment for their pet. According to a recent study, only a small percentage of pet owners currently have a pet insurance policy. The study stated this is mostly due to a lack of awareness and perceived value. Pet insurance can include medical claims, prescriptions and wellness plans for employee pets. Employers and voluntary benefit providers can team up to increase awareness and penetration of this benefit.

Paid Puppy Parental Leave

Starting this month, BrewDog’s staff can apply for “paid pet-ternity” that includes a week-long bonding period with their new pet. The rationale behind the new policy is to allow the employee and pet to adjust to one another and bond. Paid puppy leave makes sense for employers with many millennial workers. Many millennials are forgoing babies for puppies. 75% of millennials own a dog and 51% own a cat.

Paid puppy leave is the most recent addition to BrewDog’s impressive benefit plan. The employee benefit plan has influenced BrewDog’s Glassdoor rankings. 97% of employees would recommend this company to a friend. Pet-friendly voluntary employee benefits can affect retention as well as outsider perceptions of a company’s culture.

Bring-Your-Pet-To-Work Policies

Happy woman with a cute dog smiling.jpegCompanies like Build-a-Bear corporate, Amazon, PetSmart and Mars, Inc. all allow employees to bring their four-legged friends to the office. About 20% of American companies have “bring-your-dog-to-work” policies in place. Studies have found that employees who are allowed to have their pet at work report higher levels of job satisfaction. Pets in the office also contribute to a more trusting, relaxing culture and employees are nicer toward each other. Employee stress levels decrease and productivity increases with office pet policies.

These types of policies do not come without their risks and requirements for success. Employee and pet safety must be paramount and there must be participation guidelines. There is a need for “pet-friendly” infrastructure like potty areas, play areas, places to take a walk, and possible pet training.

As more employers consider this low-cost benefit, providers can help with implementation. Specialized benefit providers could offer on-site pet consultations and on-going pet welfare support. Consultations could include pet-friendly furniture sourcing, office configuration, and outdoor space planning. Pet concessions like treats, water, etc. could be sourced to accommodate pet need.

By the way, if you own a pet-related benefit product or program, you should review Genius Avenue’s Success Stories. We have helped providers increase their customer acquisition, re-enrollment and engagement strategy. See how we helped providers just like you become the top dog in their industry!

Pet Telemedicine & Wearables

trendy pregnant woman with her pet dog.jpegJust as telemedicine coverage is increasing in human patients, so too is coverage for pets. Instead of rushing a pet to the ER, pet owners now have the opportunity to text or video chat with a veterinarian. Employers could offer this in their benefit plan for overall pet wellness. Pet insurance providers or other providers could offer pet telemedicine plans.

Benefit providers could also help employers set up fitness trackers for employee pets. This benefit could be offered in lieu of a bring-your-dog-to-work policy. Pet fitness trackers can track vital signs, activity levels, and other health indicators of the pet. This would allow employees the peace of mind that their pet is healthy at home while they are at work.

Paid Pet Bereavement Leave

In order to accommodate the full life of a pet, companies are beginning to offer pet bereavement time. Mars, Inc., Salesforce, and Kimpton Hotel & Restaurants all include pet bereavement in their employee benefit packages. Pet bereavement allows employees time to grieve the loss of a pet.  Bereavement programs range from one day to three depending on the organization.

Upcoming Trends: Other Ideas for Pet-Related Benefits

Cute Pug dog with his tongue out.jpeg- Pet sick time: to be used when an employee’s pet has had a severe injury and needs care or must undergo surgery and recovery.

- Pet life insurance: to be used to cover the cost of cremation or burial of a deceased pet. Could also offset the cost of a future replacement for expensive, purebred animals.

- Pet daycare near the office: allow employees the peace of mind that their pet is being taken care of while they are at work.

- Pet related discount program: team up with a local pet shop or pet supply store to offer employees discounts when they shop for their pet goods.

- Pet adoption assistance program: subsidize some of the costs associated with adopting a new dog or cat.

Every Dog Has Its Day:

Pet benefit coverage can be a win-win for employers, benefit providers and employees. Employers retain more productive and loyal employees; benefit providers receive more business and employees are offered more wellness options for their beloved pet. There are many product options that can be mixed and matched to meet individual employee (and pet) needs. 

Topics: voluntary benefits

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