Pet Perks Make for Happier Employees

Discussion
Jul 27, 2011
George Anderson

Okay, it’s not a huge annual bonus similar to the one offered by Sports Direct and discussed on RetailWire earlier this week. No, it’s not a higher employer contribution to a 401K plan or some other big perk. But pet insurance is a benefit that a small and growing number of workers are beginning to enjoy.

According to a Boston Globe report, some employers are offering pet insurance as a benefit to workers as a relatively inexpensive way to support workers and build morale.

The Liberty Hotel in Boston is one of those employers with roughly five percent of its workforce participating in the pet health insurance program. The company offers the program as a group benefit, meaning employees get a discount from what it would cost them to buy similar insurance on an individual basis.

“People who are dog people or cat people, they love their pets as much as they love their own children,’ general manager Rachel Moniz, told the Globe.

Sean Reardon, director of sales and marketing at the hotel, told the paper that he pays $500 a year for his pet insurance premium and that the policy has saved him money and made him feel better about his employer.

“It gives me an appreciation that they’re looking out for their employees,’ he told the Globe. “There’s coverage provided for my wife and my children, so again this is just another progression in the care of employees and their families.”

Discussion Questions: What do you think of group pet insurance as an employee benefit option? Are there other less traditional benefits that you think help build a sense of team within companies?

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15 Comments on "Pet Perks Make for Happier Employees"


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Nikki Baird
Guest
Nikki Baird
9 years 9 months ago

I think it’s innovative, but I also think an employer better not offer it unless they’re also offering health insurance for families. What kind of irony is it if you could get pet insurance, but not your own health insurance?

But to the larger question–retailers would do well to get creative about non-traditional benefits, because for a lot of part time, transient retail employees, it’s all they’ve got. I am shocked whenever I encounter a retailer who doesn’t understand that schedule flexibility is, in its own way, a benefit. If the employee discount is a benefit, is there not some other way to tap into employees’ natural brand enthusiasm? Seasonal previews or pre-season purchases? Encourage employees to write blogs about their employment experience–if your post is chosen, you get paid a standard type of copy writing fee?

Or here’s a wild thought: why not ask them what they’d like to get?

Dick Seesel
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

“Why not?” was my initial response to this story. If an employer feels that this sort of benefit helps “brand” it to current and potential associates, it’s hard to argue against it. Provided, of course, that the benefit can be added to the company “menu” in a cost-efficient manner to the employer and is not offered as a substitute for something more meaningful (but potentially more costly) like employee health coverage or vacation time.

Employers need to think about their benefits offerings to make sure they don’t have a “one size fits all” approach. For every associate interested in pet health insurance, there are probably two others who would choose a different benefit if offered. So one solution is to provide a benefit “cost ceiling” and let associates pick and choose within these limits.

Ian Percy
Guest
9 years 9 months ago
This is all energized by the concept of unconditional love…with the exception of cats. We’d feed our pets before we’d feed ourselves, there’s no doubt about it. And when someone does something nice for our pets it ties into the love factor. I’ve often told sales people to forget giving the customer a gift at Christmas, give his/her kids something–or even better, their dog. Evaluated purely as a financial thing, it’s probably better to just give people the money. We’ve had insurance on our Lab since she was a pup and have been through all kinds of stuff that tapped into the policy. All Lab owners will nod knowingly. Still we’d have been better to simply put the premium money aside and paid directly. But–it’s all about love. We are not yet to the point where we talk about that in our businesses but we desperately need to. It’s the ultimate team-builder and the ultimate customer app. Love is the great unifier and energizer. Sadly, we don’t seem to have much of it in this… Read more »
John Boccuzzi, Jr.
Guest
John Boccuzzi, Jr.
9 years 9 months ago

For an employer like PetSmart, I see this as a real benefit that could not only build employee morale, but ties in nicely with the vision of the company which is caring for pets. I am not sure this type of alternative insurance (employee benefit) makes sense for a hotel chain. Maybe travel insurance policy benefit would be a better fit for hotel or airline employees. Extra benefits beyond the standards should meet the needs of the people you want to attract to work at the company and possibly tie in with what the company does.

Example: I worked for a software company that provided employees a 2 week sabbatical (beyond the 3 weeks of vacation) every 3rd year of employment. Since many of our employees were from overseas this allowed them to make an extended visit to see family every 3rd year. It was a huge recruiting tool when searching for the best engineers.

Roy White
Guest
Roy White
9 years 9 months ago

I’m a pet lover, but quite frankly, with a huge number of unemployed, a larger number without any health insurance at all, and with one of the major political parties seemingly against making health insurance affordable, pet insurance would seem to me to be akin to Marie Antoinette’s “let them eat cake” comment. It superfluous in this day and age, even though voluntary.

Dan Berthiaume
Guest
Dan Berthiaume
9 years 9 months ago

Pet insurance would serve as a major perk at certain retailers. Beyond the obvious pet retailers, you could probably make the assumption that outdoor-themed retailers like REI or organic retailers like Whole Foods also have a large number of animal lovers in their ranks. However, for a mainstream retail organization it would surely entice some people but probably not have a major overall impact on attracting or retaining employees.

Tony Orlando
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

Every business is different in what they can afford to pay, and offer as extra benefits to their employees.

In my business, health care for the employees is continuing to eat up profits, and we also offer a matching retirement IRA if they opt in. Pet insurance, and sabbaticals, and other unique things are great if your bottom line allows it, and I’m for anything I can do to keep my good employees. The cookie jar after health care gets empty quickly these days, but I try to help out in other ways if I can. Who knows what 2011 and beyond will bring, with the government mandating everything. We’ll see….

Christopher P. Ramey
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

Pet insurance is a cute idea that probably created some positive PR. But, it’s another cost that retailers will eventually wish they hadn’t incurred.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

I have a dog. And I love this dog completely. I would do anything to see to her health and well being. That said, I have no thoughts that pet insurance as a job perk would be the item that pushed me to accept a position. I do think it is a novel thought and one that could benefit many people (and their pet); but to make it a perk? I am not sure if it is anything but an insignificant difference between two choices when it comes to a job offer. Now if one’s pet is not healthy, that could be a difference maker. An unhealthy pet can cost many dollars to an owner.

My question now: is this something Petco, Pet Supermarket, Banfield and others in the business offer their employees?

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

My initial thought was that this story was appearing 3 months and 26 days late (or maybe 8 months, 5 days early…not sure which). But after my rolling eyes were able to refocus on the screen: (upside) cute, attention-grabbing, and for the small percentage who participate, probably of some value; (downside) gimmicky and likely to cause resentment among those who don’t want/need it (which seems to be the majority in this case). Basically I guess I’ll have to echo what others here are saying: if this is being offered along side other (more normal) benefits, then fine; but if it’s being offered in place of them, then “no.”

James Tenser
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

After dental, vision, and mental health coverage (“check-up from the neck-up”), pet coverage seems like a nice extra way to provide employees with some extra peace of mind.

Vet insurance has its place within a rich benefits cafeteria plan, however, I’d be stunned to learn that it persuades employees to come on board on its own.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
9 years 9 months ago

Beware! If this type of health insurance becomes popular, Obama will reach out to control it and make it more expensive. Seriously, though, this seems like a great idea and I’m surprised that it’s so late in coming. I suspect that participating veterinarian providers will have to be prepared to dive even deeper into the insurance paperwork morass that burdens physicians. Employers will have to take on the responsibility of managing this new service internally in some way or hire an expensive, gouging, third-party management firm. Inevitably there will be disputes that must be arbitrated by someone or other. HR departments will take on a little extra responsibility.

And what is the definition of a “pet?” In the dictionary it’s pretty broad. My pet elephant? My entire herd of horses? My tarantula?

Anne Bieler
Guest
Anne Bieler
9 years 9 months ago

Looking for new ways to support employees, like with pet health insurance, will be welcomed. Flexibility in types of benefits that will go a very long way to keep the team together for age, interests, and location. Part of the concern in adding to the benefits option is the admin costs added to the employer side; going forward this should be easier as online communications become easier for the more specialized type of services.

Odonna Mathews
Guest
Odonna Mathews
9 years 9 months ago

Pet insurance seems like a nice thing to offer, but not a deal maker. Employees like to have choices and this can be added to the list. But I agree with others that it shouldn’t replace the more essential insurance offerings for individuals and families.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

Offering innovative employee perks of all kinds is the key here. I’m a big animal fan, so I think this is great. Human health insurance should also be a benefits, though. 😉

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