People wait as an employee restocks a shelf with disinfectant wipes as people shop at a Walmart Supercentre amid coronavirus fears spreading in Toronto, Ontario, Canada March 13, 2020.
Carlos Osorio | Reuters
Walmart will start taking employees’ temperatures when they report to work to detect if they could be sick with COVID-19.
The retailer also said that it’s ordered masks for employees and will offer masks and gloves for them to wear, if they choose.
Walmart is shipping infrared thermometers to all stores, distribution centers and fulfillment centers, which could take up to three weeks. Walmart’s executive vice president of corporate affairs Dan Bartlett said on a media call Tuesday that temperature-taking will begin first at distribution centers and fulfillment centers and in coronavirus hotspots, such as New York and Louisiana.
“In the meantime, we are going to continue to encourage employees to take their temperatures at home,” he said.
In addition, Walmart will start making store aisles one-way in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom to help customers stay six feet away from one another, Bartlett said. Walmart is considering other crowd-management approaches, such as ones they’ve learned from Black Friday.
Nearly every few days, Walmart has announced new store policies meant to keep customers and employees safe as coronavirus cases rise across the country. It’s reduced store hours to allow more cleaning and restocking. It’s started installing sneeze guards at checkout and pharmacies. It’s added signs reminding customers to socially distance. It’s also added an emergency leave policy during the pandemic that pays employees for up to two weeks if they have to quarantine or become sick with the coronavirus. If an employee who had COVID-19 is still not able to return to work, they can get additional pay for up to 26 weeks.
Walmart also announced special bonuses to recognize employees’ work during a challenging time. It’s giving a bonus of $300 for full-time hourly associates and $150 to part-time hourly associates, along with accelerating payout of scheduled quarterly bonuses.
Under its new policy, Walmart will designate a employee to take temperatures when people report to work, Bartlett said. If an employee has a temperature of 100.0 degrees or more, he or she will be paid for reporting to work and asked to return home or get medical care. Employees with a high temperature won’t be allowed to return to work until they’re fever-free for at least three days.
Walmart has also ordered masks, which it will have for employees in one to two weeks. The company said the masks will be high-quality, but not the N95 respirators that at-risk health-care workers need.
Walmart is hiring 150,000 new part-time and full-time employees to keep up with customers’ demand for groceries and household essentials.
Bartlett said employees call-ins to take off from work are higher than usual, but “still at a manageable level.”
He said Walmart had already hired nearly 50,000 new workers, as of late Monday, and is averaging about 5,000 new hires per day.
“We put the 150,000 out there,” he said. “We may easily surpass that number.”