After one person in Walmart was tested positive for Covid-19 in Cynthiana, Kentucky, the company issued a memo changing its emergency leave policy on Monday, March 9. One of the biggest private employers in the US has been in contact with health experts and said that they will "continue to take precautions and actions to keep our stores, clubs and other facilities clean and ensure the well-being of our associates, customers, and members."
According to the memo released by Walmart, the employee who was tested positive for the new coronavirus is in a stable condition and is receiving the required medical care. As white-collar workers stay at home and try to sail through the outbreak, the millions of workers in the service sector are worrying about the people they come in contact with. The US is the only industrialized nation without any federal paid sick leave.
Several companies change their policies
In the past couple of days companies such as Walmart, McDonald's, Darden Restaurants and other companies have changed their sick-leave policies in order to reduce the pressure on the employees to work even when they are unwell. The employees in the service sector have been worried about coming into contact and falling sick which could lead to their lives being affected.
Companies like Uber and Lyft have changed their leave policies for workers who have been tested positive for Covid-19 or for those who have been placed under active quarantine. The world's largest burger chain announced on Tuesday that the employees of the US corporate chain will be paid if they are quarantined. But, less than 10 percent of the 14,000 restaurants in the US are corporate-owned.
Even Walmart announced the "emergency leave policy" on Tuesday. The company started the provision to permit the employees to avoid penalties while taking unpaid time off if they are unable to work or is feeling uncomfortable at work. The company said that they will pay the employees up to two weeks if they were tested positive for the virus or if they were asked to quarantine by the public health authorities. They also said that if tested positive they can be paid up to 26 weeks.
Lyft, Uber, and Instacart have also adopted similar measures to their policies. Amazon has also issued new measures but they did not confirm it as a policy change. The gig-economy workers are also under pressure during the outbreak in the US.
Companies take measures to reduce contact
Automation in the manufacturing industry is very common but the human touch is what has made the service industry different. Last week, Instacart began a "Leave at my Door" option across North America which will reduce the contact between people. There has been a significant surge in the use of this feature in the past few weeks.
Following their footsteps, Postmates also issued a similar feature. Several companies are following enhanced drop off options to reduce the contact between customers are their employees. Employees are also taking measures from their side to reduce contact with customers. Videos have surfaced on the internet showing the people trying to save themselves from the Covid-19.
Drivers are also trying to reduce the contact with the customer and one video showed the driver placing plastic protection.
The precaution measure that the people in other industries can resort to isn't the same for people working in the service industry. People working as waiters, delivery workers, cashiers, ride-hailing drivers, museum attendants, and several others have to resort to various measures to reduce the chances of contracting the Covid-19.