Employers struggling with low retention rates from an increasingly millennial workforce may want to start offering perks and benefits for pets as a creative way to keep employees engaged.

Because millennials are not only the fastest-growing population in the workforce, they’re also adopting the most pets. And with many waiting to get married and have children until later than previous generations, pets are serving as more than just furry companions.

Bloomberg/file photo

“They are almost using pets as practice families, to get the feel for having some living object totally dependent on you,” says American Pet Products Association President Bob Vetere. He says most of the pet-owning millennials in his office have begun looking into benefits like pet insurance.

Many employers are beginning to offer the increasingly popular pet insurance as a voluntary benefit, including 1 in 3 Fortune 500 companies and 9% of all organizations, according to SHRM research.

“A lot of people didn’t know that pet insurance existed for a long time,” says Cynthia Trumpey, the senior vice president of Healthy Paws Pet Insurance & Foundation. “It wasn’t necessarily the best plan for a long time. Now there are several players with excellent plans, so it is becoming more and more popular.”

Vet approved
More vets are encouraging pet owners to get insurance as well.

Last year, the 65% of U.S. household occupants who owned a pet spent more than $15 billion on veterinary care, according to a Harris poll. With insurance, all non-preexisting medical issues are covered, potentially saving costs and encouraging visits to the vet that may have otherwise been pushed off to save money.

Pet insurance as a voluntary benefit can help millennials feel that employers share their values and care about the pets they consider family. “As millennials adopt this ‘pets as a part of the family’ viewpoint and are trying to be more and more responsible, it will lead them to want to explore something like pet insurance,” says Liz Watson, chief marketing officer of Hartville Pet Insurance Group.

Watson’s company is also one of many — including Google and Amazon — that allow employees to bring pets in to work. As a pet insurance company, she says it helps build trust with consumers when a dog can be heard barking in the background of a call. But there are some benefits that even non-pet related companies can see from introducing furry friends into the office space.

“It’s great for employee morale,” says Watson. “Pets reduce stress. It really is a way to help a person who has a tough day, because now they’ve got their family with them.”

As the rates of millennials adopting pets and entering the workforce continues to rise, the demand for pet-focused perks will rise as well. And there’s room for such growth. More than 90% of pet owners do not have insurance.

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