One of the first things you learn working in the service industry is that if you don’t show up to work, you don’t get paid. The current COVID-19 pandemic is throwing a wrench into that principle: If you’re sick and you still show up to work, you risk infecting everyone else you come in contact with. But if you don’t show up, you still don’t get paid, and rent still comes due on the first of the month.
COVID-19 has made restaurants, grocery stores, and other food-related businesses realize that this model is not sustainable, even if it means they’ll be losing a shit-ton of money. We’re all going to be losing money over the next few weeks. The question is, will companies who are in a position to help their workers (who might not have enough savings to get by) actually step up to help? Here are a few places that are taking action:
- Earlier this week, Darden Restaurants, which owns The Olive Garden and Longhorn Steakhouse, announced on Twitter that it would be providing paid sick leave benefits for all hourly employees. The policy change will benefit 180,000 people.
- McDonald’s will continue to pay quarantined workers, Nation’s Restaurant News reports, but only at the 700 corporate-owned restaurants. This does not apply to workers in the more than 13,150 locations owned by franchisees.
- Instacart and DoorDash are both offering 14 days of pay or “assistance” for workers who test positive for COVID-19, The Verge reports. Instacart will also allow workers to start accruing sick pay at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked; this benefit was previously available only to shoppers in select markets. Postmates, meanwhile, is starting a fund that will help delivery workers in more than 22 states pay back their COVID-19-related medical expenses. Grubhub didn’t respond to The Verge’s request for comment.
- Trader Joe’s will be reimbursing employees (“crew members”) for sick leave between now and April 15, Business Insider reports. There has been some concern that reimbursements are at the discretion of managers; a crew member also told Business Insider that new and part-time employees who don’t quality for health insurance might not be eligible. Trader Joe’s is the first major grocery chain to approve medical leave for employees, says Grocery Dive. “Despite the risk of some employees potentially taking advantage of its leave by faking ill, Trader Joe’s response to the novel coronavirus puts it ahead of the curve as the outbreak puts a large spotlight on labor policies for industries that cannot go remote. How it navigates the rollout and response could be a proving ground for other food retailers considering similar benefits.”