- Walmart has a new attendance policy. Beginning Feb. 2, eligible hourly Walmart associates in store and supply chain roles could earn an additional 25% on the quarterly performance-based cash bonus they receive, Walmart announced in a company blog post.
- Walmart also introduced a "Protected PTO program," which gives hourly associates up to 48 hours (in most locations) to use when they unexpectedly can't make it into work. Absences during this PTO time won't impact an associate's attendance record, the company said.
- More than 300,000 Walmart associates currently have spotless attendance records, Drew Holler, VP of associate experience for Walmart U.S. said in the blog post.
With a long-running reputation for underpaying hourly workers, Walmart has taken dramatic steps to improve working conditions for those roles over the last few years. About a year ago, the big-box retailer bumped up the minimum wage to $11 for its 1.1 million hourly workers and expanded maternity and parental leave. The company also rolled out a one-time cash bonus of up to $1,000 for eligible associates, (which only included those who had worked at the retailer for 20 years).
Walmart said the new attendance program builds on a scheduling policy revised last year, dubbed My Walmart Schedule. The feature lets associates swap shifts with coworkers and pick up more hours. Last-minute scheduling has been a cause taken up by labor rights activists, store associates and lawmakers alike over the last several years.
Unplanned employee absences waste one hour for every 10 hours of budgeted in-store labor, according to a survey of 800 multinational retail managers conducted by Kronos' Workforce Institute. More than half of retailers in the survey cited unplanned absences as one of their more time-consuming problems. According to the report, retailers are understaffed 25% of the time due to last-minute absences; 49% of survey respondents from the U.S. said that most of the time they are given one to three hours' notice when an employee is not going to show up for work.
Holler asserts that employees have been pushing for attendance incentives. But some, including Eddie Iny, campaign director for the workers' advocacy group Organization United for Respect, worry the new policy will encourage employees to show up to work when they're sick. Iny told several media outlets, including CNN, that his organization has circulated a petition calling for at least six days of unpaid PTO for unexpected sickness.