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Amazon to give paid sick leave to coronvirus-infected employees

DeArbea Walker

The country's e-commerce leader, Amazon is planning to offer paid sick leave to all workers, including part-time warehouse employees affected by the spread of COVID- 19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, joining other companies throughout the United States searching for ways to compensate workers affected by the virus.

Amazon announced the policy after its staff started an online petition last week complaining about the company's lack of response to the virus. Many staff members said they couldn't afford to stay home under the unpaid leave policy.

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“As Amazon employees, we are concerned about the company’s current lack of protective measures,” the petition says. “While Amazon has made some limited coronavirus accommodations, it needs a comprehensive plan to ensure the safety of all of its workers and the larger public.”

Amazon did not respond to a requestion for comment.

Amazon is launching a $25 million relief fund for delivery drivers and seasonal workers because of the coronavirus pandemic, the company announced Wednesday. The fund will be available to Amazon Flex drivers and its network of delivery service partners, which handles last-mile package deliveries, as well as seasonal employees that are “under financial distress during this challenging time.” They will also allow these employees to apply for grants -- ranging from $400 to $5000 -- if they’re diagnosed with the novel coronavirus or COVID-19.

The Seattle based company also added it will provide up to two weeks of pay to all employees diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed into quarantine, which is effective immediately. Under the change, workers can also take unpaid time off without repercussions.

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Amazon joins ride-sharing and food delivery companies, Uber and Lyft, and food-delivery startup DoorDash in the United States compensating its employees who are, in the hospital, self quarantined or have to stay home because of the virus. Uber has stated it will suspend accounts of drivers and riders who have contracted COVID-19.

“We’ve already helped drivers in some affected areas, and we’re working to quickly implement this worldwide,” an Uber spokesperson says.Last week, some Amazon workers started a petition calling for Amazon to offer paid leave, allow workers to take frequent breaks to wash their hands and for the company to push lawmakers to pass new laws concerning sick leave.

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Amazon has a vast number of its staff who are desk workers and who can make the transition to work from home. But, it also has a strong base of warehouse workers who have to report to fulfillment centers. Amazon has requested its employees in locations such as its Seattle headquarters and New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and San Francisco offices to work from home until the end of month. But, for warehouse workers packing and shipping orders for customers, working from home isn't on the table.

Other tech companies have reported they will help workers affected by the virus. Microsoft and Google, who have asked some of its U.S. employees to work from home, said they would continue to pay hourly workers whose jobs couldn't be conducted at home.

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Walmart and Home Depot who have thousands of stores and warehouses across the company have expanded their time off policies for hourly workers. Home Depot will continue to pay for associates who have tested positive with the coronavirus or in high-and-medium risk environments where they have recently traveled to one of the more concentrated areas of the virus. Walmart, the country's largest retailer, mentioned Tuesday it will provide paid time off for hourly workers diagnosed with the coronavirus, hospitalized, or subjected to mandatory quarantine.

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