Ingles Markets plans to add more than 5,000 additional workers to support current employees and meet extra demands brought by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Asheville, N.C.-based Ingles said Thursday that the new positions will bolster the workforce in its supermarkets and distribution center. The additions will “provide some relief” to current workers and help Ingles continue to serve customers and maintain stronger cleaning standards amid the health emergency.
The hirings will expand Ingles’ workforce of approximately 27,000 employees by roughly 19%.
“During the COVID-19 crisis, the safety of our customers and our associates is our highest priority,” Chairman Robert Ingle II said in a statement. “We understand our important role in providing food, medicine and other products to our customers. We are incredibly proud of how our associates have stepped up to the challenge to serve our local communities during this difficult time.”
Also to support employees, Ingles is investing $5 million in an appreciation pay program. Plans call for the company to provide a one-time bonus payment of $300 to full-time and $150 to part-time active retail, distribution and corporate associates hired before March 1. The bonus is slated to be paid on or before April 23.
The Southeastern grocer said it also has instituted a paid, two-week leave program for associates who test positive for COVID-19, as well as modified its sick pay policy and enhanced its medical plan to provide covered members with additional benefits.
“Our hard-working associates are truly heroes,” Ingle added. “We are proud of their dedication and support during this unprecedented time.”
Earlier this week, in a COVID-19 information page on its website, Ingles announced measures to promote social distancing in stores. Efforts include prominent signage and the use of in-house radio to encourage recommended physical distancing and markers in checkout lanes to keep customers safely separated, the company said.
Plexiglass sneeze guards also are being installed at all checkout stations in every department where customers interact with associates, Ingles said, adding that it expects to finish the process within two weeks. Shoppers bringing in reusable bags will be asked to bag their own groceries, the company noted, though store associates can bag purchases in bags provided by Ingles.
Other COVID-19 efforts include modified store and pharmacy hours, suspension of product returns, and stepped-up cleaning of stores and facilities. Ingles said it has implemented “an even more rigorous cleaning routine” across the company, including on surfaces like checkout and U-SCAN lanes, touch pads and shopping carts, among other areas.
Ingles operates 198 supermarkets in the Carolinas, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and Virginia, including 108 in-store pharmacies and 104 fuel centers. The regional grocer’s operations also include 1.65 million square feet of warehouse and distribution facilities plus a milk processing and packaging plant that supplies its supermarkets and unaffiliated customers.
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