Facing scrutiny amid plans to suspend an hourly “hero pay” premium for its workers, The Kroger Co. announced May 15 that it would offer a $130 million “Thank You Pay” bonus for its hourly grocery, supply chain, manufacturing, pharmacy and call center associates to acknowledge their dedication to maintaining safe, clean and stocked stores during the coronavirus pandemic.
Kroger earlier this week had signaled it would not renew a $2-per-hour “hero pay” when it expired May 17. The bonus first went into effect March 29 and was originally set to run through April 18, but it was extended twice more. That move met criticism from union workers and was compounded by some competitors announcing a continuation of hero pay or additional bonuses.
The new bonus round raises Kroger’s investment in pay, emergency leave and other measures to safeguard associates, customers and communities to $830 million since the onset of the pandemic. The chain has experienced robust sales in the period, with officials reporting that sales picked up in late February and soared to 30% same-store figures in March. The company separately said this week it had hired 100,000 new workers in the past eight weeks, using an expedited processes that onboarded new workers in as little as 72 hours to meet booming demand, particularly in areas like e-commerce.
“Our associates have been instrumental in feeding America while also helping to flatten the curve during the initial phases of the pandemic. To recognize and thank our associates for their incredible work during this historic time, we offered special pay in March, April and May,” Rodney McMullen, chairman and CEO of Cincinnati-based Kroger, said in a statement.
“As the country moves toward reopening, we will continue to safeguard our associates’ health and well-being and recognize their work,” he continued. “At the same time, we will continue running a sustainable business that provides steady employment and opportunities to learn and grow for over half a million associates.”
Kroger said the Thank You Pay would consist of a $400 bonus for full-time workers and a $200 bonus for part-time workers, to be paid in installments on May 30 and June 18. The retailer said the bonus “bookends” an Appreciation Pay bonus it paid at the outset on the national emergency in March. That payment consisted of $300 for full-time workers and $150 for part-timers and was paid out April 3.
Kroger also announced May 15 that it would continue its COVID-19 Emergency Leave guidelines to provide paid time off to associates most directly affected by the virus or experiencing related symptoms.
“We want our associates to continue to feel supported in prioritizing their health,” said Tim Massa, Kroger’s SVP and chief people officer. “Our associates should only be working if they are healthy and symptom-free. By continuing paid emergency leave, our associates most directly affected by the virus or experiencing related symptoms should feel supported in staying home, promoting a safer environment to work and shop in.”