Give working parents what they need to thrive in veterinary medicine

Veterinary practices can support employees who are parents by implementing nongendered policies to balance time off and other parenting considerations for fathers and nonbirthing parents.

By Emily Singler


As veterinary medicine continues to struggle with attrition and burnout, much attention has focused on ways to better meet the needs of specific segments of veterinary professionals. Working parents are one such population who have much to offer their teams and clinics, especially when their employers offer flexibility and proactive support.

Working parents benefit when their employer supports and acknowledges their roles outside of the workplace while providing ways for them to feel professionally valued. Here are some ways employers can support employees who are parents.

Psychological needs of working parents

Working parents need psychological safety in the workplace to have productive communication with their employer and to protect their mental health. If working parents don’t feel safe approaching their employer to discuss their needs, the result can be stress, resentment, and eventually leaving the practice.

The attitude of management toward pregnancy and parenting can also affect employees who are considering starting their family in the future. Microaggressions and negative comments about the reliability and professionalism of pregnant individuals and working parents is a form of harassment and must be avoided.

Support for fathers and nonbirthing parents is another important psychological factor. Even as the trend of the dual-earner household has become desired and necessary, many cultural expectations persist around mothers being the default parent who is more likely to work less to accommodate childcare responsibilities and to miss work when children are sick.

Employers can help to eliminate this unfair expectation by supporting fathers and other nonbirthing parents in their parenting needs and modeling this behavior where possible.

Benefits for working parents

A carefully crafted parental leave policy can have huge implications for the success of both working parents and the practice. This ideally should be gender-neutral, meaning that the same benefit is available to parents of any gender.

Parental leave should also be available to parents welcoming children by way of adoption or surrogacy. Providing paid leave can hugely impact a working parent’s physical and mental health, the health of their child, and their attachment to the workplace going forward.

There’s much more than parental leave, however. Employers can help expectant parents offboard the tasks they normally perform and ongoing cases to other teammates before they go on leave to help reduce their stress. They can assist in re-onboarding these same individuals when they return to the workplace after leave, offering gradual re-entry where needed.

Other parent-friendly benefits include creating a working parent employee resource group (ERG), which is a community where employees who are parents can connect, ask questions, and share their own experiences. An ERG can also provide a space for working parents to determine which resources would be most beneficial to them as a workplace.

Childcare is a common need for working parents where employers can offer support. This does not have to mean providing childcare onsite, although some veterinary practices have found a way to make this work. Other options include offering a childcare stipend or providing membership to an employee perks program that includes corporate discounts with participating childcare centers. 

Additional benefits that were previously considered out-of-the-box or uncommon are becoming more mainstream. Employers can offer financial coverage toward adoption expenses and fertility treatments such as in-vitro fertilization (IVF).

Workplaces can also provide paid time off specific to fertility treatment, pregnancy loss, and pregnancy termination. Some employers help cover travel expenses for those who need to travel to pursue pregnancy termination care.

Schedule considerations for working parents

Many factors affect the scheduling needs of working parents, including how far they commute, their partner’s presence and schedule, their access to childcare and community support, and personal preferences. For these reasons, there is no one ideal schedule. Some parents will benefit most from part-time work or leaving work in time to pick their kids up from school.

Others might prefer longer days, nights, or weekends so that they can make the most of the time when someone else is providing childcare. Some roles can lend themselves to remote work at least some of the time, which can reduce some barriers around childcare.

Having open conversations about working parents’ scheduling needs and how they fit with the needs of the practice and then offering flexibility where possible can make all the difference in job satisfaction.

These are just a few of the ways that employers can give their employees who are parents the tools they need to feel fulfilled both professionally and personally. Working parents in turn bring many of the skills they hone raising children, along with their continued love for the work they do, to make positive contributions in the field of veterinary medicine.

Further reading 

Pregnancy and Postpartum Considerations for the Veterinary Team

11 Tips for Creating and Cultivating an Employee Resource Group (ERG)

New Study Proves Supporting Working Parents is Good for Business

8 Benefits and Perks that Can Help Parents Thrive at Work and at Home

The Gender Pay Gap and the Motherhood Tax

Emily Singler, VMD, is AAHA’s Veterinary Content Specialist.

Cover photo credit: ajijchan E+ via Getty Images Plus

Disclaimer: The views expressed, and topics discussed, in any NEWStat column or article are intended to inform, educate, or entertain, and do not represent an official position by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) or its Board of Directors. 




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