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Walmart creates emergency leave policy for workers, with an eye on coronavirus

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A Walmart store in Burbank.
(Raul Roa / Los Angeles Times)

Walmart Inc. started an emergency leave policy to help allay employee concerns about the escalating coronavirus outbreak after an associate tested positive for the illness.

Effective immediately, Walmart will allow employees to stay home if they are unable to work or feel “uncomfortable” at work, according to a memo seen by Bloomberg News. To be paid for the time, employees will still need to use regular paid time off options, it said.

The retailer will also pay employees for up to two weeks if they or their workplace is placed under quarantine, and such absences won’t count against attendance, it said. And if employees can’t return to work after that time, “additional pay replacement” may be provided for up to 26 weeks for both full-time and part-time hourly associates, Walmart said.

The coronavirus outbreak has thrust corporate policies on paid leave and workplace practices into sharp focus, especially for the retail and restaurant industries where so many employees are needed at stores.

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While companies like Twitter Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Amazon.com Inc. have instructed thousands of employees to work from home if they can, Costco Wholesale Corp. said it couldn’t allow corporate employees to work remotely, but said they could use vacation or sick time to stay home if they’re concerned or consider themselves at high risk.

Walmart already said last week it is limiting all cross-border international travel to just “business critical” trips and also restricting domestic travel. It also said it would cancel a conference in Dallas.

The Walmart employee who tested positive for coronavirus and works at a store in Cynthiana, Ky., is receiving medical care, and her condition is improving, Walmart said in the memo.


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