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What Employers Are Doing to Contend with COVID-19

As of late Thursday afternoon, there has been more than 134,000 coronavirus cases and nearly 5,000 deaths reported worldwide. In the United States, the COVID-19 outbreak has sickened more than 1,000 people and killed at least 33. President Donald Trump announced Wednesday night that he would ban many foreign travelers from most of Europe over the next 30 days.


WorldatWork continues to monitor the situation as it relates to the workplace, with a list of 10 action steps and a resources page with tips and information related to pandemic planning.

The following list of articles covers policies and practices companies have recently instituted to contend with the situation.

Paid Sick Leave  

Walmart Rolls Out Emergency Leave

After an employee tested positive for the coronavirus, the supermarket giant created a “COVID-19 emergency leave policy.”

Restaurant Chain Now Offers Sick Pay

At Darden Restaurants, the company that owns Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse, managers announced Monday that they would be offering employees as much 40 hours of paid sick leave annually, reports the Washington Post. The benefit had been under consideration, officials said, but Darden moved quickly because of the coronavirus threat.

European Response

In this New York Times piece, Liz Alderman explains how Europe’s generous social policies are critically important during the coronavirus outbreak. Their paid sick leave should help cushion the economic impact of the virus.

Bank of America Races to Respond

On Monday, Bank of America Corp. will begin splitting up some employees on its equities and fixed-income teams between New York and Connecticut, creating redundancy so that if an employee gets sick and a whole team has to self-quarantine, a backup team could keep functioning in its place, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Uber Taking Measures

Uber said those either diagnosed with coronavirus or having to self-isolate would receive aid for up to 14 days while their accounts were blocked, reports BBC.

Korean Air Offers Voluntary Leave

Korean Air Lines Co. said Tuesday it has offered a voluntary leave program to its employees as it struggles to cope with the sharp decline in travel demand amid the spread of the coronavirus.


Google (from) Home

A week ago, Google sent a memo to staff recommending that employees in Washington state work from home. It has now expanded that request to all of its nearly 100,000 workers in North America, reports CNN. Google has also said it is developing a fund to provide sick leave pay to non-full time employees who currently don’t have the benefit and are affected by coronavirus.

SEC Has D.C. Employees Work from Home

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday asked employees at its D.C. headquarters to stay away from the office because of a potential coronavirus case, becoming the first major federal employer to turn to telework to avoid the spreading virus, reports the Washington Post.

Remote Government

The Trump administration has told government workers to be prepared to work remotely. Some government offices have already acted, reports the Washington Post.

Chick-fil-A Sets Drill for Remote Work

Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A is assigning the more than 2,000 employees at its headquarters to work remotely Thursday and Friday, as businesses around the nation increasingly prepare for how the worsening coronavirus outbreak may affect their operations.

Blue Cross Expanding Remote Work

Employees who are able are required to work remotely two or three days per week to lower the daily number of employees at Blue Cross offices, reports FOX.

A Necessary Sacrifice

Even though it will shake up day-to-day operations, self-quarantining and extreme work-from-home moves by employers are necessary to prevent the widespread of the coronavirus, writes Eliza Barclay and Dylan Scott of Vox News. The article highlights how preventive measures like these might not reduce the total cases, but it will slow down the rate of the epidemic, which can be critical. This is known as “flattening the curve.”

Travel Restrictions

Google Among Companies Restricting Travel

Google is among the companies that have curbed employee travel as the global spread of the coronavirus outbreak has struck fear across the business world, reports NPR. This article provides a rundown of other prominent companies restricting business travel amid the outbreak.

Panic and Confusion

President Trump’s travel restrictions go into effect for a large part of Europe today, which has left many Americans confused and, in some cases, rushing to get home, reports CNN. The travel restriction includes 26 countries, as broken down by the article.

Rethinking Existing Policies

Amazon Won’t Dock for Absences

Amazon is relaxing its attendance policy for warehouse workers and other employees due to the continued spread of the coronavirus, reports CNBC. Annie Palmer writes that the company informed employees that it will not count any unpaid time off should they need to take it during the month of March. Amazon made the change to ensure there are no repercussions for needing to stay home due to illness. 

Microsoft Not Powering Down

Microsoft has committed to paying normal hourly wages to non-employees providing services to Microsoft workers, such as bus drivers and cafeteria workers, even if they spend less time on the clock because of coronavirus, writes Jordan Novet of CNBC.  The reason for this decision, CNBC reported, is that many full-time Microsoft employees will be working remotely during the next few weeks, thus it will likely result in less hours for hourly employees.

Costco Having to Confront Inequity

Food giant Costco, which has more than 163,000 full- and part-time employees across the U.S., informed employees earlier this month that all workers — regardless of status — would not be allowed to work remotely, as reported by the Seattle Times. In an internal memo reviewed by the Times, Costco executives explained the decision as a “matter of equity and fairness” since workers at Costco’s retail locations “cannot work from home.” 

Layoffs, Extended Leave and Furloughs

The Cost of a Pandemic

Unemployment in the U.S. remains at a 50-year low, but that strength is now in jeopardy as companies take stock of the growing impact from the coronavirus pandemic, reports CBS News. The article details how some employers are responding by freezing new hires or cutting staff. The events industry has been hit particularly hard, given the mass cancellations of conferences, concerts and shows.

Navigating the Shock

This Politico article highlights the growing frustration of American employees and employers as the coronavirus has brought the economy to a standstill. The article examines the potential ripple effect it will have on the job market and unemployment.

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