H&H Founder, Alexis
Why We Use Employees Instead of Independent Contractors, and What That Means for Our Pet Owners
I want to start out by saying that this post is meant to outline why we at Hand and Hound Pet Sitting have chosen to use employees, and does not necessarily reflect the choices other businesses make if they do not use employees. This post is also not intended to be used as any sort of legal advice for other businesses.
When I started to think about hiring, Kristin Morrison's book, Six-Figure Pet Sitting: Catapult Your Pet Sitting Business to Unlimited Success, was my bible for understanding the steps I needed to take to make my business more successful. In it, she mentions that in the eventuality of hiring, service business owners have to decide whether they will be employing individuals or contracting out.
Without boring you by listing the pros and cons of each, I want to explain why for our pet sitting business, we choose to employ individuals as pet sitters, and what benefit that provides our pet owners and their pets. I do want to highlight the basic determining factor as provided by the IRS, which is: "You are not an independent contractor if you perform services that can be controlled by an employer (what will be done and how it will be done)....If an employer-employee relationship exists (regardless of what the relationship is called), then you are not an independent contractor..." (source).
To start, yes, you read that IRS brief definition correctly; if we were to use independent contractors, we could not legally provide company training, tools, supplies, or paperwork for the job, hold staff or individual meetings discussing how to do a job, etc.
Because we do have employees, here are the benefits our pet owners receive in regards to company training:
standard level of care because every sitter is trained the same, including the requirement of Pet First Aid + CPR Training.
we pay for their insurance and bonding, so clients can rest assured they are covered by insurance and bonding from a reputable, pet sitter-based insurance company. IC's can be insured and bonded, but a business does not maintain that. I cover why this is important in more in-depth in our other blog post, The Secret to Choosing a Quality Pet Sitter.
every sitter has a company binder with resources they can review, including checklists, training pages, and a three-page questionnaire they fill out at every meet and greet for additional information from our clients about their pets
we provide a basic first aid kit to take care of minor injuries a pet may get under our watch.
quarterly staff meetings and bi-weekly or monthly 1-on-1 meetings with individual sitters are scheduled and done by management depending on each sitter's workload. we have found great success in being allowed to run a pet sitting business as closely to a traditional job as we can, and that includes meetings to have sitters get to know each other, and individual meetings to stay connected to management, maintain top performance, and build trust, all proven benefits of holding 1-on-1 meetings, which we would not be able to do with IC's.
FAIR PAY AND SUPPORT FROM MANAGEMENT
We have heard from many pet owners that the pet sitting service they used and paid around $90-100 per day for (i.e., a very good deal for more than 12 hours of work) ended up being questionable service, lack of respect of their home, and then the service would not listen to their concerns. Of course, there are always exceptions to this. I was a solo pet sitter when I first started charging very little, but it ultimately burned me out, and I was constantly told I was not deserving of making more than I charged. Having employees for us has:
allowed us to charge for the value of happy, not overworked, trained sitters giving 110% to you, your home, and your pet.
if there is any sort of concern or question from an owner about an employee or job, we are able to assess and evaluate the situation and provide solutions.
our sitters know we know how hard the job can be, with burnout from the demand of pet and client needs, to compassion fatigue when pets pass or are sick. having a supportive management who knows firsthand only allows them to work more confidently and provide the best care knowing they are not being taken advantage of.
CONTRACTS AND DISCIPLINARY ACTIONS
IC's are their own business. Because of that, they make their own rules and an employer cannot legally make them follow any other rules, sign a contract, or have any repercussions should a job go badly or their behavior does not align with the business.
our employee contract sets rules against letting anyone else in the home or near the pet(s), being intoxicated in any way during their time with the pet(s) or in the home, disciplining pet(s) in any unapproved and/or abusive ways, etc. which protects your home and pet.
should a complaint happen and we find it valid, or should behavior or work not align with Hand and Hound Pet Sitting standards, we have varying levels of disciplinary write-ups and corrections.
reports are sent every single time our pet sitters finish a job, complete with a required checklist, photos, timestamp, and GPS-tracked map through our online portal and mobile app.
There are so many more benefits to having employees over independent contractors, but these are the highest-ranking reasons we chose to do so at Hand and Hound Pet Sitting. Every decision your pet sitter makes should be benefitting you and your pet, so do not be afraid to ask them what kind of sitters they use and why.
-Alexis Campbell (she/her)
CEO Hand and Hound Pet Sitting