Lidl U.S. said this week it would begin offering medical benefits to its part-time employees for the first time, saying the initiative would help to attract new workers as it expands, as well as keep existing workers happy and in the fold.
Lidl said the initiative, which would cover about 1,200 workers who work less than 30 hours per week and represents a $9 million investment in its first year, would go into effect Jan. 1.
The move comes as U.S. unemployment is near historic lows and could introduce new pressures on competitors for retail jobs. Sources noted that Lidl’s larger German hard-discount counterpart Aldi, for example, does not offer a similar option for its part-time workers. Other food retailers, including Whole Foods, reportedly cut benefits for some part-time employees recently.
Roman Heini, Lidl U.S. chairman, said in an interview with WGB on Tuesday that the retailer would be offering the same plan options to part-timers as to its full-time and corporate workers, with the employer absorbing about 80% of its costs. The least expensive plan would cost individual workers less than $30 per two-week pay period and less than $50 for a family plan. The most generous option for family coverage would cost about $200 per pay period, Heini said.
Eoin Byrne, head of human resources for Lidl, said those rates compare very favorably to the private and public insurance options currently available.
About 30% of Lidl’s workforce consists of part-time workers.
“This is a sizable investment in our employees, and we really see it as something that will take a burden away from them and help them be their best. That will mutually benefit our customers,” Heini said.
Heini said the move would also benefit Lidl as it seeks new workers to meet a growing U.S. footprint. The company, which today operates more than 70 U.S. stores, has committed to reaching more than 100 units by the end of next year, including forthcoming conversions of acquired Best Market locations in the New York metro area. As WGB previously reported, Lidl had sweetened the offer for workers at those stores, bumping starting pay by $1 per hour to $15.
Federal figures released last week indicate unemployment in the U.S. was near a 50-year low, although Heini couched Lidl’s decision to extend healthcare options to workers as a long-term investment that would grow with the company, irrespective of employment trends.
In a release, Lidl cited the move drew praise from state and local lawmakers in the markets that Lidl operates.
“Virginia has been home to Lidl's U.S. headquarters since 2015, and we applaud the company’s decision to offer medical benefits to all of its employees,” said Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. “Expanding access to affordable healthcare allows Virginians to live healthier, more productive lives.”
“Lidl’s announcement today makes it clear that the company is invested in the overall health of their employees as well as their future,” Maryland Commerce Secretary Kelly M. Schulz said. “We are proud that Lidl chose Maryland for its regional distribution center as well as several new retail locations, and we look forward to the company's continued growth in our state.”