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For the dogs? Some employee benefit plans now include pet food

[Some employee benefit plans now include pet food.]

Gourmet pet food is making its way onto some employee benefit plans thanks to a partnership between Tom & Sawyer, a Toronto-based pet meal producer and League, a digital benefits platform.

“For many families, dogs and cats are our children, so it only made sense for us to offer our fresh pet meal service to an equally creative business in the benefits space, finally bringing health and wellness to the entire family” Kristin Matthews, co-founder of Tom & Sawyer said in a release championing the news.

Employees at companies enrolled in League’s benefits platform – which includes digital health spending accounts, lifestyle spending accounts and workplace health services – will be able to purchase Tom & Sawyer’s chef-produced meals like Sous Vide Salmon, a $14 salmon and veggie dish for dogs (chopped into bite-sized pieces of course) or The Harold, a $7 tuna, sweet potato and butter dish for their feline friend, using their lifestyle spending account.

While the gourmet food is likely more of a publicity stunt than a must-have for employers looking to woo pet-owning talent, it does point to the growing popularity of health or lifestyle spending accounts as a benefit, says Janet Salopek, partner and senior consultant at HR-focused Salopek and Associates.

“(League’s digital offering) is going to be very appealing to millennials – some of the words they’re using to brand this product, like ‘pick and pay’, speak to our millennials… they have the control,” she says.

[Don’t worry buddy, it’s coming/Getty Images]

Health spending accounts have been kicking around the benefits sphere for the past half decade or so in Canada and companies like Sun Life and Great-West Life tout their ability to offer these flexible tax-free benefit accounts. In fact, RBC recently announced it was teaming up with League to offer clients the a-la-carte, unconventional health benefits.

But Salopek says she isn’t surprised with the interest in the vessel as a way to offer unique benefits tailored to the specific talent companies are trying to hire.

Employees win by having more choice with what they spend their benefits on, and the accounts are a tax-deductible business expense for employers (provided they’re 100 per cent employer funded and have a pre-set limit). Lifestyle (or Personal) spending accounts are more geared towards extended benefits like things like yoga classes, gym memberships and nutritional supplements and are taxable.

“With the health spending accounts you have X amount of dollars offered up to each employee – say it’s a thousand dollars – and then you can decide how you want to spend those dollars,” she says. “Usually there are parameters around what will qualify and what won’t so if they decide to put pet products or pet insurance in there then they would call that out and define it.”

Going forward, Salopek sees Canadian companies moving towards these more customizable type of benefit offerings.

“Lifestyle spending accounts are becoming more popular and as they (do) the suite of products and offerings underneath it are going to evolve,” she says.