Due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, hourly workers are faced with a difficult decision: adhere to guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to curb the spread of illness or keep working to be able to make rent. But new policies could provide relief.
The coronavirus shed light on the lack of paid sick leave for hourly workers in the U.S. and especially for service workers whose job duties can’t be completed from home.
“Fortunately, there is a relatively simple way to address some of these inequities: The federal government can pass legislation to provide paid sick leave for all workers,” according to a recent report by the Economic Policy Institute. “Paid sick leave not only helps reduce transmission of disease, it also provides economic security for workers who might otherwise lose income if they have to take time off from work.”
And a new federal law acts as a stopgap in the absence of current paid sick leave for millions of Americans. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act was signed into law March 18. The act provides emergency funding to cover 14 days of paid sick leave at 100% of a worker’s salary (up to $511 per day), among other assistance for paid leave and nutrition programs.
But, as the Washington Post notes, the law does not apply to companies with more than 500 employees, leaving workers of large companies at the whim of their employer.
Some national companies, however, have already amended their sick-leave policies. Here’s a look at what’s changing for workers at several major employers.
8 Companies Granting Paid Sick Leave to Hourly Workers
Amazon has established a relief fund for its delivery gig workers, delivery service business partners and seasonal employees under “financial distress,” with an initial investment of $25 milion, the company announced.
Additionally, all part-time and full-time employees who are diagnosed with COVID-19 or told to quarantine will receive two weeks of additional paid sick leave.
“This additional pay while away from work is to ensure employees have the time they need to return to good health without the worry of lost pay,” Amazon said in the announcement. “This is in addition to unlimited unpaid time off for all hourly employees through the end of March, which we shared with employees last week.”
Apple was an early adopter of sweeping work-from-home policies for all its offices, including those in South Korea, Japan, Italy and Germany.
But as 9to5Mac reported, Apple then expanded its coronavirus measures to include unlimited paid sick leave for all retail employees who are experiencing COVID-19-like symptoms. According to the publication, retail workers do not have to submit a doctor’s note to be eligible.
Following 9to5Mac’s report, Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote a public letter to employees.
“All of our hourly workers will continue to receive pay in alignment with business as usual operations,” Cook wrote. “We have expanded our leave policies to accommodate personal or family health circumstances created by COVID-19 — including recovering from an illness, caring for a sick loved one, mandatory quarantining, or childcare challenges due to school closures.”
Though several media outlets referenced 9to5Mac’s report, Cook’s letter didn’t provide specifics, and an Apple spokesperson didn’t respond to Codetic’s request for more information in time for publication.
3. Bloomin’ Brands
Florida-based Bloomin’ Brands owns Bonefish Grill, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar and Outback Steakhouse.
The company has had a long-time policy of accrued sick leave for hourly workers. Each year, they can earn up to two weeks of paid time off. Speaking with the Tampa Bay Times, company spokesperson Cathie Koch announced an expansion of the policy in light of the coronavirus.
Under the new policy, employees who are sick or are told to quarantine have immediate access to paid sick leave no matter how much time off they’ve accrued.
Bloomin’ Brands did not respond to Codetic’s request for more details about the new policy.
4. Darden Restaurants (Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, Etc.)
Darden Restaurants, which employs more than 190,000 workers, said its entire workforce will have access to sick-leave benefits effective immediately.
The company announced the decision via Twitter and followed up with the details on its website.
One hour of paid sick leave is accrued for every 30 hours of work. Current employees will receive an immediate balance of paid leave based on their past 26 weeks of work. New hires will start from scratch and won’t be able to take sick leave for 90 days. The total amount of paid sick leave is capped at 60 hours, according to the announcement.
Darden Restaurants is the parent company of several well-known chains, including Bahama Breeze, The Capital Grille, Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen, Eddie V’s, Longhorn Steakhouse, Olive Garden, Season 52 and Yard House.
Amid pressure from employees and the Fight for $15 labor union, McDonald’s announced that it will provide 14 days of paid sick leave to quarantined workers, an increase from its previous policy of five days of accrued sick leave.
The new policy applies only to an estimated 700 corporate-owned locations. According to Nation’s Retail News, the fast-food giant has nearly 14,000 restaurants – meaning 95% of McDonald’s locations are unaffected by the sick leave announcement from corporate.
Franchise locations are independently owned and operated and are subject to local laws. Data from the Economic Policy Institute shows that, as of March 1, 13 states and the Washington, D.C. guarantee paid sick leave.
After reeling from the company’s first confirmed case of the coronavirus, Starbucks executive vice president Rossann Williams penned an open letter to all employees. The letter outlined a comprehensive expansion of “catastrophe pay.”
“I want you to know that here at Starbucks, you should never have to choose between work and taking care of yourself,” Williams wrote.
All Starbucks workers who have come in contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 can receive 14 days of paid leave whether they have symptoms or not. If they exhaust the initial 14 days of paid leave, they can receive up to 26 weeks of pay replacement.
Employees who are showing symptoms of the coronavirus but haven’t been diagnosed can isolate for three days and then switch to their normal paid sick leave. Workers with heart disease, a compromised immune system or who are pregnant can self isolate – with or without symptoms – and receive up to 14 days of paid leave by providing a doctor’s note.
The company also provides free access to mental health counseling and Headspace, a meditation app.
Announced in an open letter from Target’s CEO Brian Cornell, all of the company’s nearly 350,000 workers at distribution centers and retail stores are now eligible for sick leave under coronavirus-related conditions and unpaid leave due to sickness and familial obligations.
The letter was largely addressing consumers, but it also included details for a newly announced sick-leave policy.
For Target workers diagnosed with COVID-19 or officially asked to quarantine, the company will cover 100% of their pay for 14 days. Cornell also said that Target is waiving it’s “absenteeism policy,” which effectively lays out conditions for unpaid leave.
“We’ve waived it to support team members who may be unable to work because of school or daycare closures, or who stay home due to flu-like symptoms,” Cornell said in the announcement.
8. Walmart and Sam’s Club
Walmart and Sam’s Club amended its sick leave policy in direct response to a confirmed case of the coronavirus at one of its retail stores in Cynthiana, Kentucky.
John Furner, CEO of Walmart; Kath McLay, CEO of Sam’s Club; and Donna Morris, chief people officer of Walmart, sent a joint letter to employees to update them on the case in Kentucky and to announce the changes to sick leave.
“Your health is our priority, and, as we’ve said before, we want any associate who is not feeling well to stay home. So, we have created a COVID-19 emergency leave policy, which is effective immediately, to ensure you have the support you need,” they wrote.
Walmart and Sam’s Club will waive it’s “attendance occurrence policy” until the end of April, meaning all workers can take unpaid leave if they are “uncomfortable at work.”
If a store is shut down due to quarantine or if an individual worker is asked to quarantine, the company will grant two weeks of paid leave. If employees are diagnosed with COVID-19, they will likewise get two weeks of paid sick leave. Additional pay replacement is available for up to 26 weeks if a diagnosed worker can’t return to work after two weeks.
Walmart Inc. employees an estimated 1.5 million workers in the U.S.
Adam Hardy is a staff writer at Codetic. He covers the gig economy, entrepreneurship and unique ways to make money. Read his latest articles here, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism.