The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics1 (BLS) projects the employment of veterinarians will grow by 19% from 2021 to 2031. That's much faster than the average for all other occupations.
As demand for these types of professionals grows, attracting and retaining veterinarians can be challenging. Providing employee benefits to your animal-loving staff is an excellent way to improve retention. However, many traditional employee benefits options can be too expensive or complex to administer.
So, how do veterinarian employers provide quality employee benefits to their staff without breaking the bank or taking on too much work?
In this article, we'll explain how you can offer enticing veterinary clinic employee benefits, even as a small private practice.
Why should veterinary clinics offer employee benefits?
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association2 (AVMA), there are more than 32,000 clinics in the United States, employing more than 73,000 veterinarians and even more support staff. With an average of three staff members for every veterinarian, the U.S. veterinary industry is predominantly made up of small private practices.
With the rise of large corporate vets, smaller clinics can have trouble competing for top veterinary employees.
Additionally, AVMA3 reported that veterinary care appointments grew nationwide by 6.5% between January and June 2021. This creates additional stress on the veterinary workforce and a need for more animal care technicians.
Employee turnover is also high within the veterinary industry, with turnover rates of nearly 26% for veterinary technicians and 16% for veterinarians, according to AVMA.
Offering employee benefits helps your veterinary practice stand out among other competitors for talent. They make it easier to attract top talent and reduce employee turnover by improving your employee experience and overall job satisfaction.
Employee benefits have also been shown to improve productivity in the workplace, reduce employee stress, and build a better workplace culture.
When you set your staff up for success, your practice also thrives.
How do personalized employee benefits help veterinary clinics?
While traditional benefits like group health plans are often the first consideration for employers wanting to build a benefits package, they can be hard to implement because of their cost and complexity. This is why you should consider personalized employee benefits. These benefits can be easier to administer and allow your employees to use their benefits the way they want to, enabling you to satisfy each employee's individual needs.
Personalized employee benefits can also save you money and provide more value.
With personalized benefits, you have the ability to set your own budget that stays consistent each month. Because your employees have more say in how they use those benefits, their participation rate can go up—meaning that you won’t be funding unused employee benefits.
As a result, many clinics switch to personalized benefits and individual health insurance plans to free up valuable time and money.
You can provide personalized benefits through the following methods:
Personalized benefits help your veterinary clinic attract and retain top talent while increasing employee satisfaction, leading to you becoming an employer of choice.
What types of employee benefits are available?
A wide range of benefits is available for veterinary clinics of all sizes. This includes traditional benefits, personalized benefits, and employee perks.
Some of the most popular employee benefits are:
- Health benefits
- Paid time off (PTO)
- Retirement benefits
- Wellness programs
- Tuition or education assistance
- Financial benefits
Let's look at a few of these benefits in more detail in the following sections.
One perk job seekers tend to look for the most is a quality health benefit. It's one of the most sought-after employee benefits you can provide. Our 2022 Employee Benefits Survey Report found that 87% of employees value health benefits like health insurance.
There are many different types of health benefits available. Let’s go over your options.
Traditional group health insurance
Many employers choose to offer a group health insurance plan to their employees. While group health insurance is an excellent benefit, the rising cost of health insurance has turned many small to mid-sized employers away.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, only 31% of organizations with fewer than 50 employees offered group health insurance to their employees. Assuming vet clinics follow the same pattern, 69% of veterinary staff would be without a group health plan.
However, many clinics are moving away from traditional group health insurance in favor of personalized health benefits.
Health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs)
A health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) is a popular option among organizations that want to offer flexible health benefits to their employees. An HRA is an IRS-approved, employer-funded benefit that allows you to reimburse employees tax-free for qualifying medical expenses, including health insurance premiums.
Three of the most popular types of HRAs available are the:
- Qualified small employer HRA (QSEHRA)
- A QSEHRA is specifically designed for organizations with fewer than 50 full-time equivalent employees (FTEs). QSEHRA allowances are capped for the year at a rate set by the IRS. This is a great option for small veterinary practices that want to offer their first health benefit to employees. All reimbursements are tax-free as long as employees have minimum essential coverage (MEC).
- Individual coverage HRA (ICHRA)
- An ICHRA is a great health benefits option for clinics of all sizes. With an ICHRA, you can customize your monthly allowances, including by employee classes. If you have more than 50 FTEs, an ICHRA can help you satisfy the Affordable Care Act (ACA)’s employer mandate as long as your employees have individual coverage with MEC.
- Group coverage HRA (GCHRA), also known as an integrated HRA
- An integrated HRA can be used to supplement your existing group health insurance plan, such as a high-deductible health plan (HDHP). This helps your employees with their out-of-pocket expenses, such as copays, coinsurance, and deductibles. A GCHRA can’t reimburse employees for premiums.
A health stipend is another health reimbursement option similar to an HRA. Health stipends have fewer restrictions on what medical care expenses and mental health benefits you can use for them because they're taxable for both the employer and the employee.
While HRAs are often a better choice for organizations, a health stipend is helpful if you have many employees who receive advance premium tax credits (APTC). Your employees can take advantage of their health stipend while maintaining APTC eligibility. However, a health stipend doesn’t meet the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate for organizations with 50 or more FTEs.
Paid time off (PTO)
People want benefits that support their personal life. PTO gives your employees more power and flexibility when determining their work-life balance, which makes the benefit a major selling point for today’s workforce. There are many ways to establish vacation time and sick leave. The most common method is for employees to accrue time off and sick leave for the number of hours they've worked. However, some organizations have started offering unlimited PTO.
Veterinarian retirement plans
Retirement plans are another popular employee benefits option. Small veterinarian clinics can offer their employees retirement benefits such as a 401(k) or an IRA.
Health benefits only support certain aspects of holistic employee well-being. Wellness programs help improve your employees' physical and mental health, which increases productivity and reduces absenteeism.
Popular wellness programs include:
- Smoking cessation programs
- Fitness or weight loss programs
- Group wellness activities
- Nutrition and healthy snack programs
- Wellness apps
- Gym memberships
There are other ways to introduce an employee wellness program as a small veterinarian clinic. Instead of creating a comprehensive program, you can offer your staff a taxable wellness stipend.
Wellness stipends empower your employees to use their monthly reimbursement allowance how they want to. Instead of offering a gym membership to a specific gym near your clinic, your employees can decide how they want to use their wellness perk.
Your employees can use their wellness stipend to get reimbursed for exercise classes, exercise equipment, gym memberships, fitness trackers, mobile apps, and more.
Suppose you allow your employees to be reimbursed for all wellness expenses. Instead of being forced into a one-size-fits-all wellness program, they could decide to be reimbursed for a new piece of home exercise equipment or use their expense for multiple items, like a gym membership and app subscription.
Veterinary school doesn't come cheap. According to the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges4 (AAVMC), four-year tuition can range from $78,479 to $155,295 for in-state students. Out-of-state students pay anywhere from $131,200 to $285,367 for their education.
Consider adding education benefits to your overall benefits package to offset tuition costs. Offering perks like tuition reimbursement or student loan repayment allows you to attract college students, recent graduates, and those looking for additional growth opportunities through things like certification programs in the veterinary field.
Plus, investing in your employee's professional growth is good for your business. A Linkedin Learning5 report found that 94% of employees say they would stay at a company longer if their employer invested in their personal and professional development.
With a professional development stipend, you could reimburse your employees for a wide range of educational opportunities.
Employees could use their stipend on:
- Online learning platforms such as Coursera or Skillshare
- Books and audiobooks
- Graduate degree programs
- Personal development programs
- Professional and career assessments, including certification exams
- Public speaking skills
- Career coaching
- Professional memberships, associations, and clubs
Other benefits for vet clinics
There are many other benefits and perks that can be offered at vet clinics. While some of these are becoming widespread, others are unique for vets.
Additional employee benefits include:
- Pet care discounts
- Discounted veterinary service
- Uniform allowance
- Financial literacy programs
By offering employee benefits at your veterinary clinic or animal hospital, you'll improve the lives of your staff while reducing employee turnover. Health benefits, PTO, retirement plans, wellness programs, and tuition benefits are excellent options that can significantly improve retention rates and attract the ideal job candidates for your practice.
Providing personalized employee benefits as a vet doesn't have to be complicated. If you're ready to offer benefits to your staff, PeopleKeep can help! With our benefits administration software solutions, clinics of all sizes can manage personalized health and lifestyle benefits with HRAs and employee stipends in minutes each month.
This blog article was originally published on December 16, 2014. It was last updated on May 12, 2023.