Walmart Cuts Paid Covid Leave In Half As CDC Isolation Guidelines Change

An employee scans products for an order at a Walmart Inc. store. in Burbank, California, USA, on Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Walmart is cutting paid leave in the wake of the pandemic in half – from two weeks to one week – after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week lowered isolation requirements for asymptomatic people with Covid and cut the time it takes to quarantine loved ones.

The country’s largest private employer, a major retailer, announced the policy change in a memo sent to employees on Tuesday and received by CNBC on Wednesday.

Walmart said in a memo that it will provide paid leave until March 31 for employees who are quarantined by a healthcare provider, the government, or Walmart, or if they fail medical screening or test positive for Covid. It says that workers who meet the requirements will be paid one week.

A Walmart spokesman said employees are entitled to paid leave regardless of vaccinations.

Walmart is also asking corporate employees to continue working primarily from home until January 30, even if the offices remain open, a spokesman said. The company previously asked workers to work virtually until Monday.

Walmart is one of the first companies to announce the changes following the revised CDC guidance, and the move may prompt others to rethink their paid vacation policy as well. Last week, U.S. health officials said they would shorten the required isolation and quarantine to keep up with growing evidence that people are most infectious in the two days before and three days after the onset of symptoms. The federal agency’s announcement came as many industries, including hospitals and airlines, struggled to keep up with the skyrocketing Covid cases among employees.

Retailers are grappling with this difficult situation – and a host of challenges, including firing more employees due to illness or childcare difficulties as schools return to distance learning or shorten school days. This exacerbated staff shortages in some stores and restaurants, resulting in reduced working hours or temporary closings.

Last month, Walmart temporarily closed about 60 U.S. stores located in coronavirus hotspots. Macy’s said this week it will cut opening hours at all of its stores through the end of January. Others, including Apple and Starbucks, have closed some establishments.

Walmart recently reinstated the requirement for masks for all employees, regardless of vaccinations. The requirement was dropped in May, stating that fully vaccinated workers and clients should no longer wear masks.

Beginning December 19, Walmart announced that all employees must wear masks at all company facilities until further notice.

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