Mars Veterinary Health invests in employee initiatives

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Mars Veterinary Health North America announced a $ 500 million multi-year commitment to create career opportunities, expand workforce diversity, and improve pay and benefits through 2025.

Mars Inc. owns veterinary medicine and diagnostics providers nationwide, including Banfield Pet Hospital, BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Hospitals, VCA Animal Hospitals, and Antech Diagnostics, and employs more than 55,000 people in the United States, according to a July 20 press release from Mars.

The highlights of the announcement are as follows:

  • $ 360 million in increased wages and benefits, including more than 10,000 employees affected by a minimum wage of $ 15 an hour through the end of 2022.
  • $ 50 million in additional educational and career opportunities for employees.
  • $ 40 million to assist employees with the COVID-19 pandemic, including additional salaries and benefits.
  • $ 25 million to support education debt.
  • $ 25 million for diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, as well as a commitment to 50% increase in black vets and 100% gender equitable leadership teams.

Veterinary team members examine an oncology patient at a BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital. (Courtesy Mars Veterinary Health)

Doug Drew, President of Mars Veterinary Health North America, told JAVMA News that Mars Veterinary Health takes a holistic approach to investing across its North American business while working with the rest of the profession. Mars Veterinary Health began increasing entry-level wages by 38% for the past two years.

Then, earlier this year, Mars introduced four weeks of paid parental leave, up to 26 weeks of 60% salary short-term incapacity, and gender reassignment coverage for those who are over the age of 18 from its health insurance plans and loved ones a few months earlier, Mars had the Launched the website providing mental health and wellbeing resources available not only to employees but to the profession at large.

After the arrival of COVID-19, Mars increased overtime pay. Employees whose working hours were cut due to the pandemic continued to receive full salary and benefits.

“With the pandemic, we knew there would be challenges for those whose family members were sick or had to care for their children,” Drew said, which is why Mars gave each employee an additional 80 hours of sick leave to cover tests or treatment for COVID.

Later this year, the company will open the Mars Center for Veterinary Excellence, which will be a hub for skills building, educational pathways and leadership training for employees.

Mars has also partnered with InStride to help veterinary technicians – and practice managers since mid-August – earn a bachelor’s degree in science, technology, engineering, or math from Arizona State University. The program Mars established with Penn Foster enables veterinary technicians to earn a degree or a bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology from Appalachia State University.

For Veterinarians, Banfield launched its veterinary student debt relief program in 2017 to support the financial well-being of its employees. Since then, the program has helped vets pay off loans of $ 16.5 million and an additional $ 16.5 million to refinance outstanding loans.

“In the years to come, we want to expand student debt relief programs across our business and, when it makes sense, do more in Banfield,” said Drew.

Finally, he mentioned that Banfield formed the Diversify Veterinary Medicine Coalition in the fall of 2020. To date, the DVMC has created a video and resource page, Roadmap to Equity, Inclusion & Diversity in Veterinary Medicine, or has used veterinary professionals, practices and organizations in leading their own efforts for equity, inclusion and diversity. The DVMC is also developing scholarship and mentoring programs.