Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, is responding to the threat of the new Omicron variant of COVID-19 by extending its COVID leave policy for associates through March 31, 2022, as well as reintroducing its vaccine incentive for frontline associates to provide $150 after an associate becomes fully vaccinated.
The COVID leave policy, which was implemented in March 2020 during the initial surge of the pandemic, provides up to two weeks of paid time off if an associate contracts COVID-19, if a facility is part of a mandated quarantine or if an associate is required to quarantine by a health care provider, government agency or Walmart.
“Associates are the heart of our company, and their efforts to serve our customers and members throughout the pandemic have been truly amazing,” noted Donna Morris, chief people officer of Walmart, in a blog posted Wednesday. “As they continue to focus on making the holidays merry and bright for customers during this busy season, we are keeping a close eye on emerging COVID-19 variants.”
While vaccines are not required at this time for Walmart’s frontline associates who work in stores, clubs and supply chain facilities, the Bentonville, Ark.-based retail giant is encouraging employees to become vaccinated against COVID. (More than 90% of Walmart’s Bentonville headquarters employees have been fully vaccinated.) In addition to the $150 incentive, Walmart is also giving the employees the time they need to step away from work to get their shots.
Vaccines, booster shots and pediatric vaccines are available at more than 5,100 Sam’s Club and Walmart pharmacies in the United States through prescheduled or walk-up appointments. Associates can become vaccinated while on the clock or receive two hours (one hour per dose) of paid time off to do so, whether in-store or at another location. In addition, associates who have an adverse reaction to COVID vaccines are provided up to three days of paid leave per dose.
“Our stores, clubs and supply chain facilities are especially busy this time of year, and we continue to take precautions to reduce the spread of infection and keep our associates safe,” said Morris. “We require associates to wear masks in areas where transmission rates are high or substantial.”
In addition, all associates are required to complete a daily health screening before entering a building. Also, plastic shields remain in place at registers and pharmacies, and an enhanced sanitizer station is located at the entrance of all stores and clubs.
For those associates who become sick, in addition to the leave policy, Walmart will continue to waive the co-pay for medical and therapy services through Doctor On Demand’s virtual doctor visits for associates on a Walmart medical plan, as well as provide 10 no-cost counseling sessions through Resources for Living for all U.S. associates and their household members, including dependents up to age 26.
“The health and safety of our people remain our biggest priorities and we continue to focus on enabling access to vaccines, providing safeguards within facilities and supporting associate well-being,” said Moore.
“Vaccines are safe, effective and the best solution for fighting the coronavirus and its variants,” she continued. “We continue encouraging all U.S. associates to do their part to protect themselves, their families and their loved ones by becoming vaccinated.”