Walmart will begin checking workers’ temperatures and providing them with gloves and masks, the retail giant announced Tuesday, stepping up its safety protocols as it hires roughly 5,000 employees a day to meet heightened demand during the coronavirus crisis.
Most retailers have been pummeled by the coronavirus shutdown — the U.S. had a record 3.3 million jobless claims last week — but not Walmart. The nation’s largest private employer has ramped up hiring and is on track to have 150,000 jobs filled by the end of May, executives announced in a call with reporters Tuesday. It has shortened its hiring process from an average of two weeks to “as little as 24 hours,” HR Dive reported.
But as the outbreak tightens its grip on the U.S. and dozens of states enact lockdown orders, those still leaving home to work are increasingly vulnerable. Walmart said that its employees are eligible for as much as two weeks paid leave if they are required to quarantine, and that absences would not be held against them.
To protect against spread of the novel coronavirus, Walmart is shipping infrared thermometers to all its stores so that employees can have their temperatures checked when they report for work, the company announced in a blog post. The thermometers should arrive in three weeks.
“Any associate with a temperature of 100.0 degrees will be paid for reporting to work and asked to return home and seek medical treatment if necessary,” the blog post said. “The associate will not be able to return to work until they are fever-free for at least three days.”
Walmart will also make gloves and masks available to employees who want them, but said the masks will be “be high-quality masks, but not N95 respirators — which should be reserved for at-risk health care workers.” The masks will arrive in one to two weeks, but they will not be required for workers.
Although most of Walmart’s stores have stayed open amid the pandemic, the retail giant has cut its hours and reduced or suspended some services to give employees more time to stock and sanitize.
The company has also taken steps to make its shopping experience more social-distancing friendly: it put up in-store reminders to stay 6 feet apart, enacted no-touch shopping procedures and installed sneeze and cough guards at registers.