NEW YORK (AP) — Walmart is launching an emergency leave policy for its 1.4 million hourly U.S. workers that includes allowing its employees to not be penalized for taking time off if they feel uncomfortable working because of fear of the spreading new virus.
The nation’s largest private employer also said Tuesday that hourly workers who work in a store, club, office or distribution center will receive up to two weeks pay if they’re required to quarantine by the government or by the retailer. Workers who have a confirmed case of the new virus will also receive two weeks of pay. If they are not able to return to work after that time, additional pay may be provided for up to 26 weeks for both full-time and part-time hourly workers.
The policy, which covers both Walmart and Sam’s Club workers no matter when they were hired, including part-time employees, comes as companies are wrestling with how to support the workforce in these fluid times.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. In mainland China, where the virus first exploded, more than 80,000 people have been diagnosed and more than 58,000 have so far recovered.
Walmart’s senior vice president of U.S. benefits Adam Stavisky told The Associated Press that this new policy is a ‘’recognition”‘ of these “unprecedented and uncharted times.”
“We are looking to provide some additional support so they can better weather these times,”‘ he said. He added they will continue to monitor the situation and adjust the policy as needed.
Before the spreading new virus, Walmart Inc. allowed full-time hourly associate to carry over up to 80 hours of paid time off each year, and a part-time hourly associate could carry over up to 48 hours of paid time off.