Walmart is now offering paid sick leave to hourly workers as it aims to curb absenteeism.
The retail chain said store and warehouse workers in the US will receive up to 48 hours of “protected paid time off” to be used for any purpose starting this month. The leave credits will be classified separately from the regular vacation time already extended to employees.
Walmart has been criticised in the past over allegations of substandard labour practice, including low wages, poor working conditions, and inadequate healthcare benefits. But the company is hoping to rehabilitate its image by increasing wages, relaxing employee dress codes, and expanding its parental-leave policy in recent months.
The latest revamp of the paid sick leave policy is Walmart’s latest attempt to improve relations with its workers, Bloomberg reported.
“We’re thrilled that the company has stepped up and appears to be making major improvements to its policy,” said Dina Bakst, co-president of workers’ rights group A Better Balance and a critic of Walmart’s labour practices.
“At the same time, we urge Walmart to reconsider aspects of the policy that may be even more harsh on workers.”
The new benefit, however, also makes it easier for the company to dismiss employees who miss too many work days. Workers will now be allowed only half the number of absences they once were given before being terminated.
The company has also changed its quarterly bonus scheme, factoring in attendance when calculating rates. Employees who miss even a couple of shifts could receive only half of their bonus, while those who have flawless attendance records could see their bonus increase by as much as 25%.
Workers who use their protected leave credits to take time off will not be penalised by the company.