The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Walmart issuing cash bonuses to hourly workers, hiring another 150,000 employees

Full-time staffers will receive as much as $300 as the retailer shifts into overdrive to contend with the coronavirus outbreak

Commuters pass by a Walmart in the District. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

Walmart plans to dole out $545 million in early and special bonuses — as much as $300 a pop — to reward workers who are operating in overdrive to keep shelves stocked amid the coronavirus pandemic. It also plans to hire another 150,000 hourly employees.

Full-time hourly workers hired by March 1 will receive $300 and part-time hourly workers will get $150 on April 2, the company said in a statement. Those extra payments add up to $365 million, which will be supplemented by another $180 million in early first-quarter bonuses for store, club and supply-chain employees.

Walmart, which just paid fourth quarter bonuses on Thursday, is issuing the first-quarter payouts as though it had reached sales goals for the three-month period ending in April. Employees are set to see heartier pay stubs on April 2, April 30 and May 28, when another regularly scheduled bonus payday is set.

Walmart, Apple and Olive Garden are among major employers updating sick leave policies as coronavirus cases spread

“Walmart associates have gone above and beyond the call of duty in serving our customers during these unprecedented times,” chief executive Doug McMillon said in a statement. “We want to reward our associates for their hard work and recognize them for the work that is in front of us.”

Many large retailers, including Macy’s, Nordstrom and Apple have closed their bricks-and-mortar locations as consumers follow public health recommendations and “social distancing” protocols to stem the virus’s spread. Walmart has stayed open, though at reduced hours, to allow staff to replenish inventory and do more extensive cleaning. Business has been brisk as shoppers pile cleaning supplies, toilet paper, food and other essentials into their carts.

On Wednesday, the company announced U.S. stores would be open from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. It designated a special shopping hour for customers older than 60 — who are at an elevated risk if they contract the virus — on Tuesday mornings beginning on March 24. They will be allowed to shop an hour before the location’s designated opening time.

It also set buying limits on paper products, milk, eggs, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, water, diapers, wipes, formula and baby food.

Walmart posts disappointing holiday sales, says it is keeping a close watch on the coronavirus

That’s little respite for many employees, though, who in some cases have been working through the night to sanitize the stores and restock shelves. Reinforcements may be on the way with the planned 150,000 new hires. Walmart said it would cut its two-week hiring process down to 24 hours through an online portal. It contacted “industry groups representing restaurants and hospitality,” according to the company’s statement, to offer employment opportunities to workers that lost their jobs because of the covid-19 crisis.

Restaurants all over the country have been forced to close because of public health orders but in some jurisdictions are allowed to continue running a carryout-only business. Travel and hospitality sectors are beginning to see large-scale job casualties as demand for airfare and lodging craters. Manufacturing has been hit hard, too, with major automakers idling North American plants over fears the virus could spread and a looming recession that will probably soften consumer demand.

Walmart employees say they’re preparing for job cuts as retailer rolls out its ‘Great Workplace’ program

“We know millions of Americans who are usually employed at this time are temporarily out of work, and at the same time we’re currently seeing strong demand in our stores,” McMillon said in the statement. “We’re looking for people who see Walmart as a chance to earn some extra money and perform a vital service to their community.”

Earlier this month, Walmart waived its worker attendance policy through the end of April for employees who felt unsafe or unable to come into work. Employees in mandated quarantine zones can receive two weeks of paid leave that will not count against vacation or other leave time. Infected employees will receive two weeks of paid time off and are eligible for another 26 weeks of fully or partially paid leave.

Coronavirus: What you need to know

Vaccines: The CDC recommends that everyone age 5 and older get an updated covid booster shot. New federal data shows adults who received the updated shots cut their risk of being hospitalized with covid-19 by 50 percent. Here’s guidance on when you should get the omicron booster and how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections.

New covid variant: The XBB.1.5 variant is a highly transmissible descendant of omicron that is now estimated to cause about half of new infections in the country. We answered some frequently asked questions about the bivalent booster shots.

Guidance: CDC guidelines have been confusing — if you get covid, here’s how to tell when you’re no longer contagious. We’ve also created a guide to help you decide when to keep wearing face coverings.

Where do things stand? See the latest coronavirus numbers in the U.S. and across the world. In the U.S., pandemic trends have shifted and now White people are more likely to die from covid than Black people. Nearly nine out of 10 covid deaths are people over the age 65.

For the latest news, sign up for our free newsletter.