- In an effort to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, Trader Joe’s is reimbursing sick workers for their time off, according to Business Insider. The company sent out an internal memo encouraging employees that aren’t feeling well to stay home until they are symptom-free for at least 24 hours. The policy is in place through April 15.
- The memo tells employees to alert their manager and coworkers if they feel sick during the workday and need to go home. As of now, the grocer plans to clean stores as usual, with no extra disinfecting efforts. Workers were also told to become familiar with common symptoms of COVID-19 and offered personal hygiene tips.
- In addition to its shift in sick leave, Trader Joe’s made changes to the way employees serve free samples at its demo stations. Instead of putting all samples on a tray, workers will give shoppers the samples directly and be served with cutlery to avoid using their hands.
Trader Joe’s paid leave policy in response to the COVID-19 outbreak appears to the first among major grocery chains. News stories have cropped up across the country citing employees from food retailers such as Walmart and Target who have expressed concern over getting sick and missing work due to strict attendance policies and lack of paid sick leave.
Unlike other companies like Amazon and Twitter, which have instructed their employees to work from home, food retailers need employees to keep items stocked and check out shoppers, especially now as household essentials are flying off the shelves as people prepare for shortages or quarantine.
While Trader Joe’s paid sick leave may make it easier to take off without fear of some lost wages or repercussion and could keep the virus from spreading, some workers still expressed concerns over the policy. One employee anonymously told Business Insider that enforcing the policy is up to manager discretion, so it's not guaranteed.
The coalition that’s working to create a union for Trader Joe’s employees, went to Twitter to voice their concerns. The coalition wrote that the discretionary nature of the policy “opens up the potential for the biases and discrimination that already plague workers” and if an employee is out for more than 7 days, their case will be reviewed by HR. The government, however, is recommending that those that test positive for COVID-19 be quarantined for 14 days.
"If you develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or shortness of breath, call your health-care provider right away," the memo states. "We are encouraging Crew who are exhibiting any of the above symptoms to see a medical provider and not come to work."
The coalition also recommended Trader Joe’s extend healthcare for all its workers, stating that under its current policy, new and part-time employees that don’t qualify for company health insurance may not be insured at all, still leaving them at risk.
Despite the risk of some employees potentially taking advantage of its leave by faking ill, Trader Joe's response to the novel coronavirus puts it ahead of the curve as the outbreak puts a large spotlight on labor policies for industries that cannot go remote. How it navigates the rollout and response could be a proving ground for other food retailers considering similar benefits. Walmart has already reported that it is closely monitoring the situation and will adjust policies as needed.