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Hiring Employees vs. Hiring Independent Contractors

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Employee vs independent contractor

Is Your Dog Walker an Independent Contractor or an Employee?
Know the difference and why it matters.

In recent years, companies like Uber and Lyft have sparked a debate over the use of independent contractors vs. employees. California recently filed suit against them for misclassifying their employees as independent contractors, but any legislation that’s put in place will affect more than the ride-share industry.

The dilemma of hiring an employee or an independent contractor has been discussed for many years in our industry. Pet care and dog walking companies often use independent contractors. The biggest reason for this boils down to cost: when a company uses contractors, it doesn’t have to pay into state or federal taxes, unemployment insurance or worker’s comp.

If you’re an independent contractor (or 1099-MISC) this means you’re responsible for saving for taxes. You must pay self-employment tax as well as income tax. Self-employment tax is a Social Security and Medicare tax primarily for individuals who work for themselves which an independent contractor is considered. You’re also in a much trickier situation when something like COVID-19 hits, as your employer hasn’t been paying into the unemployment insurance you might need to stay afloat during a shutdown. Furthermore, should something happen on the job, like a twisted ankle or dog bite, you are, essentially, left to shoulder the financial and legal burden on your own.

While many dog walking companies still use independent contractors, Urban Tailz walkers are employees. We believe this should be the standard in pet care industry, as it’s better for clients, walkers and companies.

Here’s why:

independent contractor vs employee

PROPER TRAINING

Legally, you can train employees, but you cannot train contractors because legally (both federal and state) companies do not have the right to control how an independent contractor performs a task. This is such an important distinction given how many different types of harnesses, leashes and dog temperaments we see in the pet care industry. There is a high degree of control needed for dog walking companies because we are caring for our client’s children.

Our on-boarding process consists of one to two weeks of training, during which our managers teach new walkers proper leash handling. We also introduce them to a variety of dogs to make sure they’re comfortable navigating different sizes and personalities.

In addition, we train them on different alarm systems, door and lock quirks (trust us, there are so many!) and everything else needed to safely enter and lock-up a client’s home.

What this means for walkers: 

We make sure you’re comfortable before you strike out on your own, and we offer continued support post-training. We have a team of managers on-call to answer questions, troubleshoot or come help you. Dog walking is, by nature, a pretty independent job, but you have a team behind you whenever you need it.

What this means for clients:

Every walker is background-checked, vetted by the managers and trained before ever entering your home.

MANAGEMENT AND OVERSIGHT

You are not allowed to tell an independent contractor exactly how, when or where to do something. If you do, according to contract law you are using independent contractors incorrectly and are subject to legal and financial ramifications. Because our walkers are employees, we can ensure things are done to our standards. A dog walking business using independent contractors does not have that degree of control.

What this means for walkers: 

While dog walking demands a certain level of self-sufficiency, there is still managerial oversight. We expect our walkers to follow company rules and protocols. Our office team manages everyone’s workload, so they’re never overwhelmed (or under booked!).

What this means for clients: 

Your walker is overseen by a team of managers who are there to help, but to also ensure you’re getting the quality service that’s kept us in businesses for more than 20 years. If you’re not happy with something, we can–and will–correct it.

 

WALKER BENEFITS

Dog walking is an unconventional job. Many of our walkers are artists, students, writers, musicians, or otherwise creative people trying to turn a passion into a living. We love when people choose this path, and we do everything we can to keep them happy.

What this means for walkers:

As a W-2 employee with Urban Tailz, you’re entitled to minimum pay, worker’s comp, unemployment insurance and 401k matching after six months. If something happens to you on the job, we have your back. We also offer health insurance for our full-time managers.

What this means for clients:

Your walker is taken care of. They are insured on the job, so if something happens to them or your dog, you’re both covered.

 

When people ask us why we got into dog walking, we usually joke that it’s because we like working with animals more than people. Honestly, it’s the truth, but with one very important caveat: we like working with our people, because our people are pet people, too 😉 And we’ll do everything we can to keep them safe, happy and walking with UT for the next 20 years.

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