Retail

Walmart deploys new emergency leave policy after Kentucky associate tests positive for coronavirus

Key Points
  • Walmart is deploying an emergency employee leave program.
  • The retailer,  which is the nation's largest private employer, confirms one of its store associates in Cynthiana, Kentucky, has tested positive for the coronavirus.  
  • There are three major scenarios Walmart outlines for the new COVID-19 emergency leave policy to apply. 
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Walmart deploys coronavirus emergency leave policy

Walmart said Tuesday it is deploying an emergency employee leave program as the retailer confirms one of its store associates in Cynthiana, Kentucky, has tested positive for the coronavirus.  

The infected employee is a woman and Walmart said she is improving with medical care.

The new policy comes as the coronavirus spreads throughout many U.S. states where the retailer operates. Walmart is the nation's largest private employer with 1.5 million workers in the U.S. According to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, there are at least 761 cases of COVID-19 that have been diagnosed in the United States, and at least 27 people have died in the U.S. from the virus.

A memo sent to employees from Walmart U.S. CEO John Furner, Sam's Club CEO Kath McLay and Chief People Officer Donna Morris details the new COVID-19 leave policies. 

The retailer also said it has "reinforced our cleaning and sanitizing protocol, and, with the support and encouragement of the state government, the [Kentucky] store remains open." 

"We all know we are in unprecedented times," Adam Stavisky, senior vice president of Walmart U.S. benefits, told CNBC. "Walmart is looking to see how we can best support our associates ... we are implementing first of our kind benefits for associates."

There are three major scenarios Walmart outlines for the new emergency leave policy to apply. 

The first allows employees to stay home if he or she is unable to work or feels "uncomfortable" at work, by waiving its attendance policy through the end of April. While the normal attendance policy will not be enforced in this circumstance, in order to have the leave paid, associates must use their regular paid time-off options.

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Second, if a store, club, office or distribution center fall under a mandated quarantine by either the government or Walmart, or if an individual employee has been told they need be quarantined, these employees will receive up to two weeks of pay and associated absences will not count against attendance.

Third, if an individual associate becomes ill with a confirmed case of the coronavirus, the associate will receive two weeks pay. If the associate is unable to return to work after those two weeks, additional pay replacement may be available for up to 26 weeks for both full- and part-time hourly associates.

Walmart also noted in the memo that it continues to monitor the situation and that it will continue to "take any and all measures necessary to ensure the well-being of our associates, customers and members."