- Kroger announced it will offer a $150 bonus for part-time and $300 for full-time workers that were hired on or before March 1. The grocer also expanded its paid time off policy to cover individuals who have to self-isolate and who have COVID-19 symptoms diagnosed by a healthcare professional.
- Walmart offer the same bonus schedule for its hourly workers as Kroger, costing an estimated $550 million, and has also boosted hourly pay by $2 for all of its e-commerce warehouse employees. Meanwhile, Target announced Friday that it will offer its part-time and full-time employees a $2 per hour pay raise effective immediately. The temporary raise will last until at least May 2. The retailer is also giving bonus payouts to all 20,000 hourly store team leads that oversee a department. The payout ranges from $250 to $1,500.
- Other major chains have announced temporary $2 increases to worker pay in the past few days. H-E-B said Friday it would increase hourly pay by that amount between March 16 and April 12, while Albertsons pledged the same increase from March 15 until at least March 28. The Giant Company will increase worker pay by $2 between March 22 and May 2.
Grocery workers are increasingly seen as front-line defenders, and companies want to recognize the importance of these individuals and also the risks they are taking. In addition to Kroger, Target and Walmart, retailers that have announced pay raises or bonuses in recent days include Stop & Shop, Weis Markets, Sprouts Farmers Markets and Raley's.
Many workers are happy to have a job, but they're still uneasy about being in such close proximity to so many shoppers. A Safeway cashier in Alexandria, Virginia, told NPR on Sunday she's committed to helping shoppers but still feels uneasy about social distancing.
"We can't be 6 feet away from the customers," Michelle Lee told the radio network. "They're about 2 feet away from us."
Pay increases can help workers feel valued, but grocers know they also need to have enhanced safety measures in place, as well. Over the next two weeks, Albertsons stores, including Safeway, will install plexiglass barriers separating cashiers from customers at the purchase point. The move follows a similar initiative by Hy-Vee and other grocers.
Companies have shortened store hours and are deep-cleaning floors and shelves while closed. Some are taking even further measures while they're open. In Seattle, PCC Community Markets workers wipe down payment terminals and common surfaces after each customer checks out. It also offers disposable gloves for shoppers to use at store entrances.
Many retailers including Walmart, Target and Kroger are also offering their employees two weeks paid sick leave as well if they were to contract the virus or be quarantined by a health official. Target is also giving a paid leave to its workers that are 65 and older for up to 30 days so they can isolate themselves.
The benefits for employees kicked off when two Kroger employees and one Walmart employee tested positive for the virus. Currently, there are 32,000 confirmed cases in the U.S. The death toll has topped 400.
Food retailers are also busier than ever and can’t afford to lose employees during the pandemic. In fact, grocers are in a hiring frenzy. Walmart is looking to hire 150,000 new workers and Kroger an extra 10,000. Amazon announced plans to hire 100,000 additional warehouse workers and has boosted pay by $2 an hour for all its hourly associates, including those at Whole Foods.