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30 Major Companies That Didn’t Guarantee Paid Sick Days Before the Pandemic — and What Changes They Did or Didn’t Make

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Nixx Photography / Shutterstock.com

In the days before COVID-19, sick leave may not have always been at the top of workers’ minds. Now that the epidemic has closed down entire economies around the globe, sick pay has proven essential. Those who have contracted the disease need financial support during the 14 days or more that they must either stay at home or visit a hospital. Even healthy workers are in need of supplemental pay, as they find themselves quarantined at home or facing the shuttered doors of their employers. In response to these extraordinary circumstances, many — but not all — companies have altered their sick leave policies to provide at least a small financial lifeline to affected workers.

Last updated: May 20, 2020
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Dollar Tree

  • Estimated employees without paid sick days prior to pandemic: 56,000
  • Has announced paid sick days policy for pandemic: Yes
  • Policy applies to part-time workers: Yes

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dollar Tree enacted a specialized sick leave policy that applies to all of its workers. The company now grants up to two weeks of pay for any associate, full time or part time, who tests positive for COVID-19. Workers do not have to use their own paid time off or sick pay while they remain in quarantine.

 

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Meijer

  • Estimated employees without paid sick days prior to pandemic: 57,000
  • Has announced paid sick days policy for pandemic: Yes
  • Policy applies to part-time workers: Unknown

Meijer offers free online COVID-19 screenings to its employees, and those who are infected receive up to two weeks of full pay under the Meijer COVID-19 pay continuation program. Those in need of additional time off can take advantage of the company’s short-term disability plan.

 

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Panera

  • Estimated employees without paid sick days prior to pandemic: 57,000
  • Has announced paid sick days policy for pandemic: Yes
  • Policy applies to part-time workers: Yes

Panera’s new emergency COVID-19 policy provides for temporary expanded sick pay for all company associates, including part-time workers. The policy includes the costs of required COVID-19 tests made under a doctor’s order. Under the temporary emergency policy, Panera workers are also entitled to two bowls of soup and a free baguette weekly.

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IHOP

  • Estimated employees without paid sick days prior to pandemic: 64,000
  • Has announced paid sick days policy for pandemic: No
  • Policy applies to part-time workers: N/A

As of the time of writing, IHOP’s parent company DINE Brands has yet to announce any changes to its sick leave policy for workers during the COVID-19 crisis. DINE Brands is also the owner of Applebee’s, which similarly lacks a COVID-19 employee sick leave policy.

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Starbucks

  • Estimated employees without paid sick days prior to pandemic: 68,000
  • Has announced paid sick days policy for pandemic: Yes
  • Policy applies to part-time workers: Yes

Starbucks has a reputation for being a good corporate citizen, and it was one of the very first companies to announce “catastrophe pay” for workers in the U.S., way back on March 11. The company had already announced a change in policy in China before this date. On March 20, Starbucks modified the policy further, offering to pay workers for 30 days regardless of whether or not they even came into work.

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JC Penney Co.

  • Estimated employees without paid sick days prior to pandemic: 69,000
  • Has announced paid sick days policy for pandemic: No
  • Policy applies to part-time workers: N/A

J.C. Penney Co. has not announced any special sick leave policies for workers during the COVID-19 crisis. However, like many retailers, J.C. Penney Co. has been fighting for survival, and on May 15, the company filed for bankruptcy. The filing makes it fairly clear that the company is not in the position to offer workers additional benefits at this time.

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KFC

  • Estimated employees without paid sick days prior to pandemic: 69,000
  • Has announced paid sick days policy for pandemic: Yes
  • Policy applies to part-time workers: Yes

KFC announced that it will pay eligible employees at corporate-owned restaurants up to two weeks of scheduled shifts that they may miss, whether due to the virus itself or due to store closures. Employees who have been diagnosed with or exposed to COVID-19 are eligible, as are those who exhibit symptoms or are ordered to self-quarantine.

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CVS

  • Estimated employees without paid sick days prior to pandemic: 74,000
  • Has announced paid sick days policy for pandemic: Yes
  • Policy applies to part-time workers: Yes

CVS advises its workers with cold-like symptoms to remain home. The company will pay workers who either test positive for COVID-19 or who are quarantined for exposure for up to 14 days. Those wishing to extend their time off to care for sick family members must use the company’s traditional time-off policy.

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Cracker Barrel

  • Estimated employees without paid sick days prior to pandemic: 74,000
  • Has announced paid sick days policy for pandemic: No
  • Policy applies to part-time workers: N/A

Cracker Barrel has not yet announced any changes to its sick leave policy for workers affected by COVID-19. At the time of writing, the company’s only response has been to set up a 24/7, toll-free COVID-19 response hotline for employees.

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Kohl’s

  • Estimated employees without paid sick days prior to pandemic: 78,000
  • Has announced paid sick days policy for pandemic: Yes
  • Policy applies to part-time workers: Yes

Kohl’s is one of many retailers who closed their doors in response to the COVID-19 epidemic. As of March 19, all store associates were provided with two weeks of pay. No further policies have been announced, as stores remain closed.

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Walgreens

  • Estimated employees without paid sick days prior to pandemic: 79,000
  • Has announced paid sick days policy for pandemic: Yes
  • Policy applies to part-time workers: Yes

For Walgreens team members with a confirmed case of COVID-19, Walgreens will pay the first two weeks of their absence. Additional time off may be covered by the company’s short-term disability policy. Walgreens also offers workers more flexibility regarding time off during this period.

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Domino’s

  • Estimated employees without paid sick days prior to pandemic: 83,000
  • Has announced paid sick days policy for pandemic: Yes
  • Policy applies to part-time workers: Yes

Domino’s expanded paid sick leave for all hourly workers at corporate stores and supply chain centers, although the amount of additional leave was not specified in the letter posted by CEO Ritch Allison on May 7. Workers who were forced to quarantine and were not able to come in to work also received extra compensation.

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Olive Garden

  • Estimated employees without paid sick days prior to pandemic: 85,000
  • Has announced paid sick days policy for pandemic: Yes
  • Policy applies to part-time workers: Yes

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, Darden Restaurants, the parent of Olive Garden, instituted a three-week Emergency Pay Program. Specifics vary based on experience and average pay, but essentially, workers will accrue sick leave at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked. Current Darden team members enjoy the benefit based on their most recent 26 weeks of work.

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Holiday Inn

  • Estimated employees without paid sick days prior to pandemic: 89,000
  • Has announced paid sick days policy for pandemic: No
  • Policy applies to part-time workers: N/A

As of the time of writing, Holiday Inn had not published any alterations to their sick leave policy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This leaves upwards of 89,000 workers without additional sick pay in the event they are directly affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

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Chick-fil-A

  • Estimated employees without paid sick days prior to pandemic: 89,000
  • Has announced paid sick days policy for pandemic: Yes
  • Policy applies to part-time workers: Unknown

As of March 18, all Chick-fil-A owned and operated locations provided paid sick leave for all workers with confirmed cases of COVID-19. No indication was made as to whether this applied to part-time workers or to those working at franchised locations.

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Publix

  • Estimated employees without paid sick days prior to pandemic: 89,000
  • Has announced paid sick days policy for pandemic: Yes
  • Policy applies to part-time workers: Yes

As of March 31, Publix announced that all workers with confirmed cases of COVID-19 would get 14 days of paid sick leave to quarantine and recover. This is an enhancement over the company’s regular sick leave policy, which typically only applies to full-time workers. Publix is also now allowing workers to wear masks and gloves.

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Sonic

  • Estimated employees without paid sick days prior to pandemic: 92,000
  • Has announced paid sick days policy for pandemic: Yes
  • Policy applies to part-time workers: Unknown

Sonic has announced a variety of additional measures to stem the spread of COVID-19, and it has also expanded its sick leave and pay policy for team members. However, this expanded sick leave only applies to workers at company-owned drive-ins, and there are no details as to whether or not the policy includes part-time workers.

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Dunkin Donuts

  • Estimated employees without paid sick days prior to pandemic: 97,000
  • Has announced paid sick days policy for pandemic: No
  • Policy applies to part-time workers: N/A

Like many food service locations, Dunkin’ Donuts announced plans to keep its stores cleaner, focus on social distancing and operate with reduced hours in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it had no paid sick leave policy for its 97,000 workers before the outbreak, and it has not as of yet offered additional paid sick leave to its workers.

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Applebee’s

  • Estimated employees without paid sick days prior to pandemic: 99,000
  • Has announced paid sick days policy for pandemic: No
  • Policy applies to part-time workers: N/A

Applebee’s Restaurants is a sister restaurant to IHOP, as both companies fall under the umbrella of parent company DINE Brands. None of these companies have announced any new sick leave policies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Dollar General

  • Estimated employees without paid sick days prior to pandemic: 109,000
  • Has announced paid sick days policy for pandemic: Yes
  • Policy applies to part-time workers: Yes

Dollar General offers two weeks of paid sick leave for employees with a positive COVID-19 test. It offers the same benefit to those forced to care for a relative or household member with the illness. Those with COVID-19 symptoms can receive up to one day of pay.

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Taco Bell

  • Estimated employees without paid sick days prior to pandemic: 124,000
  • Has announced paid sick days policy for pandemic: Yes
  • Policy applies to part-time workers: Unknown

Taco Bell’s standard sick leave policy offered at least 24 hours of paid sick time per calendar year to all team members at company-owned restaurants nationwide. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the company expanded the parameters of this program to waive the standard 90-day waiting period for newer employees.

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Wendy’s

  • Estimated employees without paid sick days prior to pandemic: 133,000
  • Has announced paid sick days policy for pandemic: Yes
  • Policy applies to part-time workers: Yes

Wendy’s created a new emergency paid sick leave policy in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Hourly employees, including those working for company restaurants, now have access to up to 14 days of paid leave if they are “unable to work as a result of certain COVID-19 challenges.”

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Marriott

  • Estimated employees without paid sick days prior to pandemic: 139,000
  • Has announced paid sick days policy for pandemic: No
  • Policy applies to part-time workers: N/A

Marriott has added flexibility to its guest cancellation policy and introduced a slew of cleanliness and hygiene protocols at its properties. However, as of the time of writing, the hotel chain has not updated its sick leave policies for workers in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Target

  • Estimated employees without paid sick days prior to pandemic: 151,000
  • Has announced paid sick days policy for pandemic: Yes
  • Policy applies to part-time workers: Yes

In response to the coronavirus, Target invested more than $300 million in a variety of employee-focused programs, including increased wages, bonus payouts, a new paid leave program and relief fund contributions. Employees in stores and distribution centers earned an additional $2 per hour through May 2, and those 65 or older, pregnant or with underlying medical conditions could access up to 30 days of paid leave if they chose not to work.

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Pizza Hut

  • Estimated employees without paid sick days prior to pandemic: 156,000
  • Has announced paid sick days policy for pandemic: Yes
  • Policy applies to part-time workers: Unknown

The president of Pizza Hut U.S., Kevin Hochman, published a letter to customers indicating that in addition to enhanced hygiene and cleanliness measures at restaurants, the company would force employees who were diagnosed with or exposed to a positive case of COVID-19 to self-quarantine. Mr. Hochman also indicated that such employees would still be paid by the company, as would those who worked at a restaurant that is closed due to COVID-19.

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Burger King

  • Estimated employees without paid sick days prior to pandemic: 165,000
  • Has announced paid sick days policy for pandemic: No
  • Policy applies to part-time workers: N/A

Burger King has unveiled sweeping adjustments in terms of safety, teamwork and delivery, and it has consulted with government and industry experts and colleagues to help stem the tide of COVID-19. However, as of the time of writing, the company has not announced any changes in its sick leave policy regarding the pandemic.

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Subway

  • Estimated employees without paid sick days prior to pandemic: 180,000
  • Has announced paid sick days policy for pandemic: No
  • Policy applies to part-time workers: N/A

Subway is another restaurant chain that has announced numerous health and hygiene initiatives to combat the spread of COVID-19 but that has done nothing to update the sick leave policy it offers workers. The company has donated more than 15 million meals to Feeding America to feed people in need, and it has sourced protective shields and masks for workers.

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Kroger

  • Estimated employees without paid sick days prior to pandemic: 189,000
  • Has announced paid sick days policy for pandemic: Yes
  • Policy applies to part-time workers: Unknown

After at first skirting the issue of sick leave for workers, the CEO of grocer chain Kroger has brought his company’s COVID-19 sick leave policy in line with many other employers. Specifically, Kroger now offers 14 paid days of sick leave to any workers either diagnosed with COVID-19 or forced to quarantine due to the pandemic.

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Walmart

  • Estimated employees without paid sick days prior to pandemic: 347,000
  • Has announced paid sick days policy for pandemic: Yes
  • Policy applies to part-time workers: Yes

As early as March 10, Walmart moved to make changes to its sick leave policy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. First, the company allowed flexible time off through April, although this was not paid time off. Next, the company provided for 14 days of sick leave if an employee’s workplace was closed or they were required to quarantine. Lastly, associates with confirmed COVID-19 cases were also granted two weeks of sick pay. Up to 26 weeks of assistance could be availed, if needed, for both full-time and part-time workers through the company’s short-term disability policy.

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McDonald’s

  • Estimated employees without paid sick days prior to pandemic: 517,000
  • Has announced paid sick days policy for pandemic: Yes
  • Policy applies to part-time workers: Unknown

McDonald’s had the most employees without paid sick leave before the COVID-19 crisis. After some pressure, the company has unveiled a 14-day paid sick leave policy for workers at its corporate-owned locations. However, the vast majority — upwards of 95% — of McDonald’s restaurant locations are owned by franchisees, and those workers remain relatively unprotected.

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