March 2024

Volume 16, Issue 3

Relief Veterinarians - Employee or Independent Contractor?

Hiring relief veterinarians can be crucial for veterinary practices to ensure continuity of care and maintain service levels, especially during periods of staff shortages or when regular veterinarians need time off. It helps practices manage their workload effectively while ensuring that the needs of their clients and patients are met.


Additionally, relief veterinarians bring fresh perspectives and experiences to the practice, which can be beneficial for both staff morale and the quality of care provided to patients. They can also serve as potential candidates for permanent positions if they prove to be a good fit for the practice.


But are these relief veterinarians considered employees or independent contractors? The classification of independent contractor versus employee is an important distinction in the business world, especially regarding labor laws, taxation, and benefits, to name a few.

Determining whether a relief veterinarian is an employee, or an independent contractor involves considering various factors, including but not limited to:


Duration of working relationship: Is the arrangement temporary, or ongoing with a regular schedule?

  • Independent Contractor: works at the practice for a temporary period or for a specific project or time frame under a contractual arrangement with an end date or an “as needed” basis.
  • Employee: hired to fulfill a long-term role within the practice, with expectation of ongoing employment.


Control or Independence: Does the practice dictate the veterinarian's schedule, procedures, and work methods?

  • Independent Contractor: has a high degree of autonomy and control over how they perform their work, including methods, client interactions and potentially providing their own tools.
  • Employee: the practice sets specific, regular hours for the relief veterinarian to work and provides detailed instructions on how to perform tasks.


Compensation agreements: Are they paid a set wage or on a per-service basis?

  • Independent Contractor: Sends the practice an invoice for their services based on the duration of the time expended.
  • Employee: Paid a regular annual salary or hourly or day rate and has federal and state taxes withheld and managed by the practice. Based on practice’s benefit policy, would qualify to receive company employee benefits.


Integration into Business Operations

  • Independent Contractor: provides specialized or project-based services that complement but are not fully integrated into the day-to-day operations. 
  • Employee: works regularly and performs duties that are critical to the day-to-day operations of the practice.


It's important for both business owners and relief veterinarians to understand these distinctions because misclassification can lead to significant legal and financial consequences. Employers should ensure they correctly classify workers according to the nature of their relationship and the relevant legal guidelines in their jurisdiction.


Summit Proudly Supports

Summit is a proud supporter of the Christian Veterinary Mission. We invite you to check out all the amazing things this organization is doing, sharing the love of Christ through veterinary medicine. 

May this Easter season renew your faith, inspire your team, and bring blessings to your business.


Summit Veterinary Advisors


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