The policies by the world’s largest retailer represent a bid to better attract and retain talent at a moment when an improving economy has meant the labor market is more competitive. And the plans are also part of the chain’s attempt to invigorate sales by offering better service in its fleet of more than 4,000 U.S. stores.
“We are committed to investing in our associates and to continuing to simplify our business,” said Judith McKenna, chief operating officer for Walmart U.S., in a press release.
Walmart had said last February that it would raise its minimum wage to $9 per hour in April 2015, with a second raise to $10 per hour planned for 2016. Walmart’s wage hike announcement came amid a flurry of similar moves by the likes of Ikea, Starbucks and Aetna. Days after Walmart said it would raise its wage floor, T.J. Maxx said it would do the same.
Walmart’s initial wage hike affected 500,000 of its workers. The Feb. 20 pay increase will affect most of its 1.4 million U.S. employees.
The retailer had also previously said it would be revamping its approach to worker scheduling. As part of that, the company outlined Wednesday plans to offer workers one bucket of paid time off instead of different ones for vacation, sick, personal and holiday.
Some activists who have been critical of Walmart’s labor policies were not impressed by the latest announcement.
In a statement, the group Making Change At Walmart said,”America’s hard-working families expect better from a company that makes billions in profit a year, and that is owned by one of the wealthiest families in the world.”
Walmart said the plans for new pay increases and other worker benefits it laid out on Wednesday were factored into the gloomy profit guidance it gave to investors in October.
The retailer detailed its pay plans less than a week after it revealed that it would close 269 stores across the globe, including all of its Walmart Express locations.
Walmart is scheduled to announce its quarterly earnings results on Feb. 18, which should offer some clarity on how the mega-retailer held up in what proved to be a tougher-than-expected holiday season for the industry. The National Retail Federation said Friday that retail sales grew 3 percent in November and December, well below the 3.7 percent growth the trade association had forecast.