A Toronto-based software company is offering a virtual veterinarian service through its benefits program.

Nicola Watson, human resources manager at Tribalscale Inc., says pet-owning employees can use the service, operated by Vetster Inc., to schedule up to four virtual vet visits per year. She notes the offering is in line with TribalScale’s decision to shift to a remote working arrangement during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the rise in pet ownership among workers. Of the company’s 60 employees, roughly half are pet owners.

“We went fully remote during the pandemic and have stayed that way — we have no office or hybrid structure at the moment. Like everyone else, there’s been a rise in pet ownership among our employees. Raising pets at home isn’t easy and due to the increase in cost of having pets, we felt this was the perfect perk to offer our employees. . . . People really care about their pets, so we saw a need for this service and employees feel we’re really taking the time to offer them something personal.”

Read: Employees seeking pet-friendly workplaces, benefits: survey

While pet-centric benefits offerings aren’t a new concept, they’re being promoted more often by the employers that offer them, says Kim Siddall, vice-president of enterprise consulting for Western Canada at People Corporation. “An employer will usually have pet insurance as part of a voluntary suite of benefits and they may be promoting it a little more so people are aware of it. Pre-pandemic, it was more sector-specific, particularly professional services firms, which were more likely to offer things like pet insurance.”

Voluntary benefits offerings such as pet insurance and virtual veterinarian care can create an element of choice for workers and support an employer’s talent retention and attraction efforts, she says, noting employers of all sizes can take advantage of these benefits. “Oftentimes, these programs are seen as something for larger employers, but voluntary benefits can bring choice to a much smaller employer and can create flexibility in the offering in a difficult labour market.”

And with the ongoing competition for talent in the software development space, offering a virtual vet service has helped TribalScale stand out, says Watson. “We want to figure out innovative ways to be the employer of choice. It shows we’re inclusive and willing to go the extra mile for our employees.”

Read: An employer’s guide to curating a suite of voluntary benefits