A health crisis at the scale of COVID-19 also means a financial crisis for millions of Americans who have lost their jobs. However, certain businesses continue normal operations, or are even growing, because they’ve been deemed essential. These businesses are providing Americans with critical supplies and services, so it’s imperative that they keep their employees safe and focused — and even attract new ones to keep up with demand. So how should companies do this?
A recent webinar from Commonwealth covered the best practices of employer response to COVID-19, and focused on two key elements. First, that protecting the financial security of workers will benefit business overall. Second, that employers are already in an excellent position to offer things like increased pay, time off, and access to benefits. Here are how some of the country’s largest — and currently most important — employers are enacting these best practices.
In March, Walmart offered bonuses ranging from $150 to $300 for its associates, and accelerated quarterly bonuses for certain employees. The company also created a new COVID-19 emergency leave policy, which waives the attendance policy through the end of April for associates who are unable to come to work or uncomfortable doing so. Associates whose work locations have to close, or become ill or need to quarantine will receive two weeks of pay. For associates diagnosed with COVID-19 who can’t return to work after two weeks, they’ll receive additional pay replacement for up to 26 weeks.
Walmart also heard associates who were asking for faster access to wages — employees who were experiencing stress around keeping themselves and their families safe. In response, the company rolled out weekly access to earned wages using Even’s on-demand pay feature, Instapay.
In a unique step, Albertsons has sought to classify its employees as first responders during the pandemic. This would ensure that workers at Albertsons stores — as well as Safeway, ACME Markets, Jewel Osco, Vons, and Pavilions — are prioritized for COVID-19 testing and provided with personal protection equipment. Albertsons also extended its Appreciation Pay program for front-line associates through May 2, giving those employees $2 more per hour in pay.
Target has invested more than $300 million in paying higher hourly wages for front-line employees through at least May 2nd, amounting to $240 — $480 per employee. The company also expanded its bonus program to 20,000 team leads, and has given dedicated shopping hours to employees.
Target also modified its absenteeism to offer quarantine pay for 14 days, 100% confirmed illness pay for 14 days, and 30 days of paid leave for employees who are considered to be most vulnerable by CDC guidelines.
Walgreens offered one-time bonuses for workers in stores, distribution centers, and pharmacies, and relaxed its attendance policy allowing team members to stay home for health or childcare reasons. Team members will also be paid for two weeks if they’re sick with COVID-19, and team members whose work locations are closed will be paid in full without the need to use PTO.
Pepsi employees who are quarantined or diagnosed with COVID-19 are receiving 100% of their pay for 14 days, with no impact to accrued sick days or attendance records. This also applies to employees caring for a family member with COVID-19. If an employee’s work location closes, they will still receive full pay for up to 12 weeks, and employees needing to stay home to care for a child will get a minimum of two-thirds of their pay. Pepsi has also made employees eligible for free testing, and is offering access to specially trained mental health professionals, and a $100 per day reimbursement for child care.
Starbucks Coffee is giving its employees full pay until May 3rd, even if they choose to stay at home. After that time, extended “catastrophe pay” will take effect for workers who have been diagnosed or exposed to Coronavirus, and for employees whose stores have had to close or stay closed.
Employees who choose to keep working will earn an additional $3 per shift, and have access to an employee assistance program (EAP), Headspace for mindfulness, and access to mental health benefits through Lyra Health.
A unique feature of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 response empowers its employees to help on the front lines: Any medically trained employee can take paid leave for up to 14 weeks to provide medical services to COVID-19 patients. The company is also granting a one-time award of $1,000 to eligible on-site employees at its facilities worldwide.
On March 2nd, Trader Joe’s employees were given two weeks of additional sick time in case they show symptoms of illness. Healthy employees who continue to work are being given an additional hourly $2 in “thank you” wages. If any stores have to close, Trader Joe’s will continue to pay all employees for their scheduled shifts.
Sprouts has expedited and maximized its quarterly store bonuses, and created a hero bonus program as well as a relief fund to help team members facing hardship due to COVID-19. The company is also providing 14 additional days of paid time off for team members who are asked or have decided to quarantine. Team members considered higher risk according to CDC guidelines are also eligible for 14 days of paid time off, as well as assurance that their job will be protected if they choose to take that time. Eligible team members have access to subsidized childcare benefits, and Sprouts is covering 100% of COVID-19 testing costs for employees.
As the world navigates COVID-19 together, we’re already seeing that our social safety nets are woefully inadequate. And this will need to be addressed. In the meantime, the companies listed above are leading the way in initiatives to help workers now, and protect jobs in the future.
For employers wondering what kind of steps can be taken, these companies are providing great examples. Even is here to help, too. To talk about how on-demand pay can complement the other initiatives you’re doing for your employees, get in touch.
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