Public/Global Health

Major companies updating sick leave policies in response to coronavirus

Several major companies operating in the U.S. have updated their sick leave policies to prevent the novel coronavirus from spreading. 

Companies like Walmart, McDonald’s, Apple, Instacart, Uber, Lyft and Darden Restaurants, which manages restaurants like Olive Garden, have taken action to provide its employees with paid sick leave to allow those who feel ill to stay home. 

Across the country, some employees have voiced concerns about not being able to afford taking time off without pay, prompting worries that workers who unknowingly have coronavirus would continue to work in public and spread the virus. 

A Kentucky Walmart employee tested positive for the virus, which led the company to announce it would not penalize workers for having the virus and being quarantined. Employees in mandatory isolation can receive up to two weeks of sick pay, matching the government-recommended quarantine time period. 

Those with a confirmed case can receive “additional pay replacement” for up to 26 weeks, according to a release Walmart sent to employees Tuesday.

The fast-food chain McDonald’s approved a new policy under which employees of corporate-owned restaurants will be paid if they are required to be in quarantine for up to 14 days. The company also emphasized that employees should stay home when sick and pointed to its existing policies for five days of paid time off per year.

“As we proactively monitor the impact of the coronavirus, we are continuously evaluating our policies to provide flexibility and reasonable accommodations,” a McDonald’s spokesperson said in a statement. “Our people are the heart and soul of the McDonald’s family and, of course, we will support them through this unique circumstance.”

Darden Restaurants announced that its employees would receive “permanent, paid sick leave benefits” starting Monday night, after facing criticism for its leave policy on Twitter.  

The company provided up to 40 hours of paid sick leave annually to all hourly workers. Officials had been considering the move, but it was accelerated as coronavirus spreads, according to a spokesman from the company.

The tech giant Apple said this week that employees, including hourly workers, will receive unlimited paid leave if they develop symptoms similar to the coronavirus, The Washington Post reported

Apple also encouraged its corporate workers to work from home after one of the employees at Apple’s European headquarters in Dublin has tested positive and has been quarantined. Some other employees have been asked to stay home, according to the Post.

Instacart, the app-based grocery delivery service, decided to provide its employees with up to 14 days of paid leave for those diagnosed with coronavirus or put in mandatory quarantine by officials. In-store shoppers who don’t deliver can get one hour of sick pay for every 30 hours they work.

“To the best of our knowledge, no one in our community has contracted COVID-19, but we believe this is the right thing to do for our employees and shoppers,” the company said in a post.

The ride-hailing apps Uber and Lyft revealed their plans to contain coronavirus and help their employees over the weekend. With Uber, drivers diagnosed or affected by quarantines can receive up to 14 days of paid leave. Lyft announced it will “provide funds to drivers” who become sick or are put in isolation because of the virus.

The policy changes come as Vice President Mike Pence said Monday that an economic package would be proposed to give paid sick leave to employees affected by COVID-19, but did not provide specific details on the plan.

–This report was updated at 11:03 a.m.

Tags Apple Coronavirus Darden Restaurants Instacart Lyft McDonald's Mike Pence Olive Garden Paid sick leave Uber Walmart

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