When most pet parents look for a professional pet sitter to take care of their “furry babies”, they will check the obvious things; insurance, bonding, references, background checks, etc… Having these things in place is important, but there is something else that is even more important: Does the professional pet sitting company they choose to use hire employees or independent contractors (IC’s)? Here's why you should always use employees and just say not to IC's.
1. IC's cannot be trained.
If you utilize IC’s you cannot do ANY type of formal training with them. You cannot force them to follow company policies and procedures, and you cannot tell them how your services should be rendered. For example, if an IC decides that they want to walk a dog off-leash (even though company policy states they are not allowed to do that), they can do that. The IC decides how they get their work done, and you as the business owner cannot technically do anything about it.
2. IC's can hire someone else to do their work for them.
Another problem with utilizing IC’s as pet sitters (and this is the scariest factor) is they can hire another person to do their work for them. Think about a plumber. If they are contracted by a construction company to do work as an IC, they can bring in anyone else that they want to help work on their job. If your pet sitters are IC's, they can technically “hire” someone else, unknown to you, to do their work for them. This means that you could have a strange person, who you have never met, entering your clients' homes and interacting with their pets! Yikes!
3. IC's have to set their own schedule.
Lastly, IC’s have to set their own schedule. As the business owner, you cannot direct them as to where they have to be at a specific time. As long as they “get the work done”, they cannot be told when they have to do it. Think about the plumber, again. The construction company doesn’t tell them when to go to the job site, they only contract a “job” with them. The IC can set their own schedule as to when they want to work.
4. If you are audited, your back-owed employee taxes could put you out of business.
A few years ago, I was audited by the Labor Department and let me tell you, I have never been so nervous in my life! Luckily, all my pet sitters were employees, so we were ok. But if our pet sitters were considered IC's, we would have had to pay a TON of back-owed employee taxes. We purchased our business from a previous owner, who did have the sitters as IC's, but once I saw how I was unable to run the business the way I wanted with IC's, I quickly changed them over to employees. However, during the audit the representative from the Labor Department did thoroughly go over the IC's "invoices" and quizzed me as to why I deemed my pet sitters IC's for the brief time I had them as such. He agreed that the change to employees was the right decision. The bottom line is, pet sitters that work for a professional pet sitting company will not be deemed IC's if you are ever audited. The IRS litmus test for IC's will prove that your pet sitters should be employees.
If you have a pet sitting business and you are thinking about hiring pet sitters, make sure to go through the proper steps to make them your employees. If you decide to use IC’s, keep in mind that you will have very little control over the people you are sending to your clients' homes. If you want to be a truly reputable company that has control over the quality of the service you and your pet sitters are offering, you should definitely only hire employees. It will allow you to know what exactly is happening within your business and to have peace of mind that the pet sitters you hire have been trained and are following all your company policies and procedures.
My business, Angel Pet Sitting, is a professional pet sitting and dog walking company that only hires employees as our pet sitters. In addition, all my Angel Pet Sitting employees go through a rigorous interview process and training program. Our training program includes a one-on-one training with myself of my office manager, supervised visits, and Pet First Aid/CPR training.
Feel free to share your questions about employees and ICs below, or contact me to get your specific questions answered.