Companies that continue to operate through the COVID-19 pandemic have rolled out new safety measures, including checking employee temperatures, installing sneeze guards at checkout counters and supplying workers with face masks. Beyond personal protective equipment (PPE), employers are expanding benefits and safety protections to workers, with low-wage workers who have become the backbone of the economy being offered paid sick leave. Grocery and retail chains are not penalizing workers who miss work for feeling ill or quarantining themselves, and several employers announced temporary raises or bonuses for those continuing to work during the crisis. Albertson’s, parent company of Illinois-based online grocery delivery Jewel-Osco, recently joined the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union to push for supermarket employees to be designated as emergency personnel so they can get easier access to testing and protective equipment. Meanwhile, Amazon, McDonald’s, Walmart and Home Depot are trying to spot ill employees earlier with temperature checks. Lauren Novak, a partner in the labor and employment practice at Chicago-based Schiff Hardin, says that employees are requesting these precautions so they can work in a safe environment. Job seekers are now asking about safety, according to recruiter Skills for Chicagoland’s Future. Some companies offering temporary pay increases and bonuses, as well as paid sick leave, say they are considering keeping those benefits for workers, as well as storing PPE in their own offices.
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