In the battle for workers in a tightening labor market, Target Corp. on Monday rolled out a series of beefed up benefits it will offer full- and part-time workers, including paid family leave and emergency child care.
"Our workforce, like the communities we serve, is multigenerational, and our team members face growing caregiving responsibilities including infants, children, spouses, domestic partners and aging parents," Target said in announcing the changes.
The company said it would:
• Institute a new paid family leave policy that would include care for a child, spouse or parent, beginning June 30. Target said the new policy doubles paid leave from two to four weeks and includes leave for birth, adoption, surrogacy or foster placement.
• Extend a program to allow up to 20 days of what it called "affordable backup care solutions" for child care and elder care to include workers at its stores and distribution centers starting this fall. The benefit previously had been offered only to headquarters workers and covered only care at child-care centers. The new program also covers in-home care for children and older adults. Employees pay $20 a day for center-based care and a variable hourly rate for in-home care.
• Reimburse hourly and salaried workers up to $10,000 for adoption and surrogacy fees to cover such costs as application, filing, placement fees, court costs and attorney fees. The retailer said this doubles the previous amount, which it has offered for more than a decade.
Greg Portell, a retail and global consumer expert with the consulting firm A.T. Kearney, said moves by Target and others to announce wage increases and other perks underscores the reality that labor is "the largest issue facing retailers" for several reasons.
"Retailers are starting to understand the importance of store associates in converting sales in stores," Portell said. They also need workers comfortable with technology and varying skills necessary to handle differing demands of filling e-commerce orders.
And as retailers sink more into training, they are looking for ways to reduce turnover.
Expanding paid leave to more workers — not just those at headquarters — and subsidizing emergency family care can build loyalty in addition to a financial cushion.
"They are starting to target the causes for attrition," Portell said. "Absenteeism is often caused by child-care issues, elder-care issues, family issues.
By directly addressing the cause, these employers are giving their associates an opportunity to excel."
The nation's largest retailers have been ratcheting up their wages and benefits in recent years as a growing number of cities and states have passed $15-an-hour minimum wage standards and passed paid-leave laws.
Target raised its base pay to $13 an hour this month and has said it will hit $15 an hour for all of its workers by the end of 2020.
Amazon raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour last October and Costco Wholesale matched it in March.
Walmart's starting wage for hourly employees is $11. The nation's largest retailer last week announced a sweeping new education benefit in which it will cover the costs of tuition, books and fees. Employees would be required to pay $1 a day for the duration of their studies.
Richfield-based Best Buy doesn't release its starting hourly pay, saying it pays competitively based on individual markets.
Best Buy boosted a number of benefits last summer, including a caregiving benefit providing four weeks' pay for the birth, adoption or foster-care placement of a child and to care for a spouse, domestic partner, child or parent. It also provides adoption-related expenses up to $14,080.
This spring, Best Buy suspended a new employee benefit for emergency child care after a published report found flaws with Care.com, which managed the program for the retailer.
A company spokesman said Best Buy has not yet reinstituted the benefit, for which workers would pay a $10 copay for emergency care.