My Take: Should employers offer pet insurance?

When my fiancée and I decided to get a puppy in July, one of the first decisions we faced was whether or not to get pet insurance.

In the past, I had a dog with a number of medical issues, so insurance appealed to me. However, after looking at the cost breakdown and the fact that a lot of expenses, such as examination fees, weren’t eligible for coverage, we opted to open a savings account instead, putting in money for our dog care — at least for the first year.

For now, we feel we made the best, most economical choice for our situation. But if either of us had pet insurance available through our employer, it may be a different story.

Read: Do employees want benefits for their pets?

Employers can include the option in a lifestyle spending account, where plan members can use the funds in the account to pay for the insurance, according to a representative at League Inc., who noted the company is currently talking to pet insurance providers to have their services added to the marketplace.

While Lisa Kay, president and lead consultant at Peak Performance Human Resources Corp., says she hasn’t had any personal experience with employer clients requesting pet insurance coverage, she’s heard of it more broadly in the industry. “You have a kind of benefits plan where it’s flexible and you can opt in to certain things that are of interest to you specifically, then I think that’s great because it will definitely appeal to some people,” she says.

Rather than providing an option to cover pet insurance, another pet-friendly benefit for employers to consider is the provision of either pet bereavement or so-called paw-ternity leave. In my case, having the option to take a couple of days off when Digby joined the family would have certainly made the transition easier for everyone.

However, Kay doesn’t support the idea. “I think it’s walking into some dangerous territory,” she says. “And unless you have very well-written policies and, even if you do, I can just see a potential there for it to backfire.”

Read: A look at Mars’ pet-friendly workplace policies

To be frank, I knew about the costs of dog ownership going in and I had no expectations that anyone else would subsidize my choice. And ultimately, I don’t think it’s fair to ask an employer to help fund the cost of a pet.

What do you think? Should employers offer pet insurance or leave related to caring for a new pet? Is it a reasonable expense given many people consider pets to be members of their family, or is it asking too much of employers that already provide generous benefits for their workforces? Have your say in our weekly online poll.

The previous poll question asked whether employers should be incorporating virtual doctor appointments as an option in their benefits plans. The majority (88 per cent) said yes, it would lead to more timely care and added convenience for employees. On the other hand, 12 per cent said no, the lack of human touch and privacy concerns create an issue.