In the midst of COVID-19, the spotlight is on frontline employees and for reasons we haven’t seen before. While some Americans are dealing with the challenges of working from home, scores of employees are still showing up to work to keep people fed and with the supplies they need as we’re asked to stay home and “flatten the curve”.
At a time when over 163 million Americans are under shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders, these frontline employees – particularly grocery store employees and those in the supply chain that support them – are the ones most at-risk as they ensure our grocery stores and essential businesses remain open and stocked so the public has access to the food and basic necessities needed to weather the storm.
Annual turnover amongst these types of frontline employees has historically been high (oftentimes exceeding 100% in some industries) and they are often seen and treated as easily replaceable talent but the COVID-19 crisis proves they are indispensable. Indeed, states like Minnesota, Vermont and Michigan have demonstrated leadership by classifying food distribution workers as “essential workers” making them eligible for state-sponsored childcare so they can continue to show up to work. There are now calls for other states to follow suit.
Companies are also recognizing the vital role these employees play in ensuring we make it through this crisis intact and are making moves to support and protect them. For instance, the grocery store giant, Albertson’s (owner of Safeway, Shaws, and Star Market among others) announced it will install plexiglass barriers at checkout counters to protect employees at its more than 2,200 stores – they expect all installations to be complete in 2 weeks with many already in place. Additionally, they’ve announced they’ll pay an additional $2 per hour – what they’re calling “appreciation pay” – on top of their normal and overtime wages to their 230,000 hourly employees. Albertson’s isn’t the only company to make this change; there are countless stories of other employers announcing temporary pay increases including, Amazon, Walmart and Target.
We applaud these leading companies for stepping up to protect and support their frontline employees during these uncertain times. Ensuring safe work environments and offering family-sustaining wages are key practices in being an Opportunity Employer. These employer stories highlight a few small steps that other companies can take to ensure their employees remain safe and are adequately compensated during and after this crisis. We hope others learn from their example and do all they can to support their employees.
There is no doubt that healthcare workers are performing heroic feats in combatting COVID-19 but let us not forget the other heroes in our midst – the grocery store and warehouse employees also on the frontlines ensuring that America has food on the table.
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