Walmart will start taking employees' temperatures when they report to work and tell them to stay home or seek medical care if they have a fever of at least 100 degrees.
The retailer also said it has ordered masks for employees and will offer masks and gloves for them to wear, if they choose.
Walmart is shipping infrared thermometers to all stores, distribution centers and fulfillment centers, which could take up to three weeks. Walmart's executive vice president of corporate affairs, Dan Bartlett, said Tuesday that temperature-taking will begin at distribution centers and fulfillment centers and in coronavirus hotspots, such as New York and Louisiana.
"In the meantime, we are going to continue to encourage employees to take their temperatures at home," he said.
In addition, Walmart will start making store aisles one way in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom to help customers stay 6 feet away from one another, Bartlett said. Walmart is considering other crowd-management approaches, such as ones they've learned from Black Friday.
Walmart is the nation's largest grocer and its largest private employer with about 1.5 million workers. Nearly every few days, the retailer has announced new store policies meant to keep customers and employees safe as coronavirus cases rise across the country. Among the changes, it has reduced store hours to allow more cleaning and restocking and started installing sneeze guards at checkout and pharmacies. It has added signs reminding customers to maintain social distance. And it's created an emergency leave policy for the pandemic.
Walmart pays employees for up to two weeks if they become sick with the coronavirus or have to quarantine. If an employee who had COVID-19 is not able to return to work, they can get additional pay for up to 26 weeks.
The retailer also announced special bonuses to recognize employees' work during a challenging time. It's giving bonuses of $300 to full-time hourly workers and $150 to part-time hourly employees, along with accelerating payout of scheduled quarterly bonuses.
Under its new policy, Walmart will designate a employee to take temperatures when people report to work, Bartlett said. Any employee with a temperature of at least 100 degrees will be paid for reporting to work and asked to return home or get medical care. Employees with a high temperature won't be allowed to return to work until they're fever-free for at least three days.
Walmart has also ordered masks, which it will have for employees in one to two weeks. The company said the masks will be high quality, but not the N95 respirators that at-risk health-care workers need.
Walmart's announcements about temperature checks and masks come as some hourly grocery and delivery workers push for safer conditions and higher pay. Amazon workers on New York's Staten Island and Instacart workers across the country organized a strike Monday. Some workers at Amazon-owned Whole Foods planned a "sick out" for Tuesday.
Bartlett said Walmart's leaders "try very hard to keep our finger on the pulse of our workforce." He said employee feedback inspired the company's decisions, such as adding plexiglass screens and temperature-taking.
He said the number of employees calling in to take off from work is higher than usual, but "still at a manageable level."
Walmart is hiring 150,000 new part-time and full-time employees to keep up with customers' demand for groceries and household essentials.
Store employees' wages start at $11 per hour and go up to $24.70 per hour, company spokesman Lorenzo Lopez said.
Walmart's pay starts between $17 and $18 per hour at distribution centers and between $15 and $19 per hour at fulfillment centers. That includes a $2 per hour temporary wage increase at those facilities through Memorial Day.
Bartlett said Walmart has already hired nearly 50,000 new workers as of late Monday and is averaging about 5,000 new hires per day.
"We put the 150,000 out there," he said. "We may easily surpass that number."