Retailers Issue Bonuses, Raises to Support Associates During COVID-19

Lisa Johnston
Editor-in-Chief, CGT
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Some retailers are taking steps to better support their store associates, many of whom have found themselves unwittingly on the front lines of the new coronavirus pandemic.

In addition to boosting paid time off and promising pay should they need to be quarantined, a few chains are increasing what their workers are calling for most: money.

Walmart will pay full-time hourly associates a $300 cash bonus, and part-time workers $150, on April 2 to mark their difficult work during a national health crisis. All U.S. hourly associates in stores, clubs, supply chain and offices are eligible provided they joined the company as of March 1.  

The retailer is also paying out its scheduled quarterly bonus a month early, in late April rather than May.

These two efforts combine for $550 million.

“Walmart associates have gone above and beyond the call of duty in serving our customers during these unprecedented times,” said Doug McMillon, Walmart president and CEO. “We want to reward our associates for their hard work and recognize them for the work that is in front of us.”

Target will raise hourly pay by $2 through at least May 2. It’s also offering access to paid leave to associates who are pregnant, 65 or older or have an underlying medical condition, and it will pay bonuses to hourly team lead associates for the first time in the company’s history.

Bonuses to the 20,000 eligible employees will range from $250 to $1,500.

The retailer said it will pursue additional hiring after current employees are offered extra hours.

Amazon, which has faced a crush of demand as consumers shift their buying habits online, is increasing U.S. hourly workers pay by $2 per hour, through the end of April.

Albertsons Companies, the parent company to such grocery chainsas Safeway, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s and Acme, is issuing “appreciation pay” toall non-union and union front-line associates in the form of $2 per hour raise.

The increase is temporary through March 28; the company said it will evaluate the situation on an ongoing basis and make changes as necessary.

Natural Grocers is giving all of its hourly associates a $1 per hour raise beginning March 23, as well as a discretionary bonus.

Trader Joe’s will also reportedly pay bonuses to store associates that are based on the sales increases prompted by consumers preparing for the coronavirus. (An online petition demanding “hazard pay” was created the day prior to the news.)

"We want to acknowledge the incredible hard work and dedication of our Crew Members in supporting each other and our communities by sharing the financial benefit of this sales increase with our store crew who have worked so hard during the past several weeks, and for as long as this challenge remains," according to a memo reviewed by Business Insider.

While it’s not cash, Starbucks is offering its employees and eligible family members access to 20 free sessions each year with a mental health therapist or coach through benefits provider Lyra Health. Access to self-guided online programs are also available.

The program, which becomes available April 6, is part of the company’s broader efforts to promote mental wellness.