In a recent memo sent to U.S. hourly store employees and long haul drivers, COVID-19 positive workers and those required to quarantine are eligible for one week of paid time off. Following this change in the U.S. health guidance policies, Walmart Inc. workers will now be eligible for one week of paid leave instead of two weeks which was the company’s earlier policy.
Walmart is known to be the largest private employer in the United States with about 1.6 million workers. With this change in employee benefits, it is among the first major retailers to reduce paid leave for COVID-19, and it is likely that other big employers might immediately follow suit. In light of already having to struggle with supply-chain blockades, product shortages, rising inflation and rocketing transportation costs, the new surge in COVID-19 cases is also resulting in severe staffing shortages across the country which was already an issue ever since the first wave hit.
In spite of this new paid leave policy, if a worker continues to be afflicted with COVID, they can receive additional COVID-related pay for upto 26 weeks. Moreover, Walmart is moving ahead with a hybrid work model until 30th January. It has extended the date for the return of employees which was earlier 10th January.
Walmart had also reportedly shut 60 stores temporarily in COVID-19 hot spots in December last year to sanitise them against the virus. While the company did witness a boom in sales during the pandemic as more people shopped for groceries and home goods and even raised its full-year annual sales and profit forecast in November, it ended up disappointing its investors with higher labour and transportation costs that eroded margins.