pets Insurance

Pet insurance is the ‘in vogue’ voluntary employee benefit

When it comes to those furry — and not so furry — members of the family, workers are seeing more options than ever for benefits from their employers.

And it’s not just dogs and cats. Under Nationwide’s pet insurance plans, for example, employees can cover birds, pot-bellied pigs and pet chickens (emphasis on “pet”). Fish, the company told HR Dive, are not included.

“Not every pet has four legs,” said David Hurley, director of sales of voluntary benefits for member/specialty groups at Nationwide Pet.

As companies focus more on voluntary benefits and ways to cater offerings to individuals, more are offering pet insurance and other pet-related benefits to their employees, benefits experts said. In 2022, 36% of large employers (those with more than 500 workers), provided pet insurance options to staff, up 22% from five years before, according to research from consulting firm Mercer.

“It certainly has now become mainstream and come in vogue,” said Brian Russell, voluntary benefits practice leader for Mercer. “It transcends all types of employer groups; it’s not just limited to one industry. …Employers are really finding that it is a benefit that can appeal to a majority of their employee populations, regardless of their generation, regardless of their other statuses.”

Sixty-two percent of people in the US own a pet, and 35% have more than one, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in April. Of those surveyed, 97% consider their pets part of their family.

Pet insurance can serve as an attraction and retention tool but also as a financial and well-being benefit, said Hurley, who has insurance for his two basset hound puppies. Pet insurance plans purchased through employers represent 70% of Nationwide’s pet insurance business, and people with plans typically submit two to three claims per year.

A group effort

Accounting firm EY started offering pet insurance in 2015, and roughly 2,400 of its 57,000 employees now have plans through the company, said Frank Giampietro, EY Americas chief well-being officer.

Rates vary by geography, but the group plans cover all types of breeds and species, including birds and exotic pets, and reimburse employees up to 70% on vet bills. That includes accidents, illnesses and hereditary conditions. And employees have the option for a $500 stipend to use for pet wellness.

“We get much more attractive group rates that we’re able to offer than if they were able to go out and get it on their own. So it really does provide a meaningful discount to them, versus them going out in the individual market and purchasing it,” Giampietro said.

The company expanded its pet-based offerings in February 2022 when it transitioned from a remote workforce to a hybrid one, Giampietro said. After holding listening sessions and surveying employees about their barriers to returning to the office, EY rolled out a Way of Working fund. Each employee receives $800 annually that can be used to cover commuting costs, dependent care and pet care.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates that nearly 1 in every 5 households got a cat or dog during the COVID-19 pandemic. And, because EY’s workforce skews younger, for many, that was their first pet while employed, Giampietro said. Many expressed concerns about what to do about pet care once they returned to the office, he said.

“We’re trying to provide whatever support we can as an employer … with the hope that, as [we] make their lives easier, [we] create more loyalty and, ultimately, more productivity,” Giampietro said.

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