This just in: The new coronavirus outbreak is officially a catastrophe. How do we know? Starbucks is now offering workers paid leave called catastrophe pay. That sounds bad! The benefit is aimed at allowing employees to self-quarantine at home for 14 days if they’ve been exposed to COVID-19, or are symptomatic, or need to care for loved ones.
“You should never have to choose between work and taking care of yourself,” wrote Rossann Williams, president of U.S. company-operated business and Canada, in a letter to all employees this morning.
Starbucks has long offered catastrophe pay for incidents such as flooded stores. This benefit is an expansion specific to the COVID-19 pandemic, and also allows high-risk employees to stay home, such as employees over age 60, those with underlying health conditions, and pregnant women. At the end of 14 days, employees can switch to vacation pay, sick pay, or personal time off as needed. A vague clause leaves open the possibility of extended catastrophe pay: “If partners are still unable to return to work, additional pay replacement may be made up to 26 weeks.”
Starbucks has been hustling to implement a range of coronavirus safety measures, including increased sanitation, disposable-only tableware in stores, and bans on samples as well as customer-owned mugs.
A number of companies have announced paid sick leave policies this month, including Darden Restaurants, the owner of Olive Garden and Longhorn Steakhouse, which now offers one hour of paid sick leave per every 30 hours worked by hourly employees. Instacart, Lyft, and Uber are also offering two weeks of paid leave to affected workers.
You can read Williams’s full letter here.