One in four respondents to a survey on veterinary practice owners and employees in Ireland say they are putting more than 60 hours a week into their jobs.

According to a study undertaken and published by accounting and advisory firm HLB Sheehan Quinn, those working the longest hours are typically sole traders and practice owners, according to the report.

43% of survey respondents say they work more than 50 hours a week.

However, despite many working long hours and hoping for a better work/life balance, there still appears to be positivity amongst veterinary professionals – with 71% of respondents indicating that they are satisfied with their career choice.

Job satisfaction levels “continue to trend upwards” with this year’s figure up 13% on last year. Around one in 10 vets say they are unsatisfied with their career, according to the report.

Top aspirations

A better work/life balance is a top aspiration for vets (69% of women and 64% of men).

Most of the practice owners surveyed believe increased salary and fewer hours are the top aspirations of their employees.

The report notes that the impact of the pandemic “may have influenced employees’ salary aspirations, as those listing ‘increased salary’ as a top aspiration is down from 79% last year to 52%”, as seen in the table above.

Employees’ attitudes to holidays “has also shifted when compared to last year, with those listing ‘more holidays’ as a top aspiration down by more than 50%”.

Pay and conditions

Overall, 68% of respondents earn more than €50,000 per annum. At the top end of the scale, the highest earners (earning over €100,000) are predominantly practice owners that are men while the lowest earners are predominantly employees that are women. Just under a third of this year’s respondents (32%) are women.

Most of the practices (63%) that were surveyed plan to take on additional vets or nurses in the next 12 months, however, “long hours, unattractive rotas and competition from other practices can be barriers when it comes to hiring and retaining employees”.

Locality and working conditions important part in hiring

Gordon Stewart of said in the report that from a recruitment perspective, early 2020 continued the trend experienced throughout 2019 – “a general shortage of both veterinarians and veterinary nurses in the market”.

“ figures indicate a sharp and sudden shock to the sector from mid-February, with the number of new job openings dropping by approximately 40%, through March and April,” Stewart said.

We saw a notable increase in the number of candidates seeking employment through the site during this period.

“The second half of 2020 reverted to a more normal level of activity, however, there is still a marked shortage of talent in the market, with more job openings available than candidates to fill them.

“Locality and working conditions (particularly rotas and flexibility) will always play an important part in the success of hiring for a role.”

Other key findings in the report

Some other key findings in the report include that almost half of survey respondents said their turnover increased in 2020, partly due to an influx of new pet owners and people working from home.

The number of incorporated practices is up by 12% when compared to last year. While the majority of practices remain unincorporated, 60% of those surveyed indicate that they would consider incorporating their business.