As the coronavirus crisis continues to disrupt everyday life, Walmart is rolling out a series of new steps focused on the health and safety of its associates — as well as their financial and emotional well-being.
“As our associates continue their heroic work to serve their communities and support each other during this time, we’re focused on doing what we can to support them and their families,” said Dacona Smith, executive vice president and chief operating officer, Walmart U.S. “Building on last week’s actions to provide associates a special cash bonus, accelerating first-quarter bonuses and adjusting our operating hours, we’re rolling out additional changes with the health and safety of our associates in mind.”
Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart, the nation's largest retailer and the employer of 1.4 million hourly workers, said last week it will pay a cash bonus of $300 for full-time hourly associates and $150 for part-time hourly associates in stores, clubs, supply chain and offices on April 2. All hourly staff employed by the company as of March 1 will qualify for the bonuses, which will total more than $365 million.
In addition, Walmart will pay its next scheduled quarterly bonus for store, club and supply chain associates a month earlier, in late April, so associates have more cash in hand sooner. The company also said the regularly scheduled bonus payout in May may reflect an increase, based on performance. The early payout program will total $180 million.
With the new Weekly Wage Access Option, associates will have quicker access to their earnings. “Associates have asked for earlier access to their wages,” said Smith, “so they can continue to plan and focus their time and energy where it matters most — on their safety and the safety of their families. By providing instant access to earned wages every week, this new option will help provide more cash in hand for associates sooner than the normal two-week pay period.
Through June, associates nationwide (except in New York and for over-the-road truck drivers) will receive free access to Even, a third-party mobile app that offers financial wellness features to help associates with budgeting and saving, as well as instant access to 50% of their earned, net wages on a weekly basis.
Currently, Walmart associates and family members, have everyday access to $4 telehealth doctor visits. The retailer is waiving this fee for those plan members, providing them access to medical and behavioral health services at no cost to them. In addition, associates and their families can get free support for mental wellness or life concerns 24/7 with Resources for Living, which includes three behavioral counseling sessions at no cost.
To protect its store associates on the front lines, Walmart has begun installing plexiglass barriers, or sneeze guards, at its pharmacy lanes (both Walmart and Sam’s Club) and will install these guards at regular Walmart registers over the next two to three weeks.
“Staying safe and healthy is more important than ever for our associates, our customers and for us,” said Smith. “Installing these barriers is another way Walmart is helping bring peace of mind that we are doing everything we can to keep our people and our stores safe.”
The retailer has also found a new solution to help associates clean carts quicker and more thoroughly, making them ready when customers need them. Stores will soon start using the Hart brand two gallon sprayer kits Walmart currently sells in stores to sanitize the whole cart. For stores that don’t offer this sprayer, the company plans to start shipping them out this week.
To encourage the 6-foot measure for social distancing, over the coming days and weeks Walmart is installing floor decals in its stores at both the entrances and in checkout lanes, making it easier for customers to judge the proper distance from each other.
“We remain focused on helping customers and associates stay healthy,” said Smith. “Based on advice from the medical community, learnings from Walmart’s international markets and new information we’re learning every day, we will continue creating and providing additional safety measures for our people and stores.”
She added, “We cannot thank and appreciate our associates enough. What they have accomplished in the last few weeks has been amazing to watch and fills everyone at our company with enormous pride. America is getting the chance to see what we’ve always known — that our people truly do make the difference. Let’s all take care of each other out there.”
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