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How are the biggest companies treating their employees during the coronavirus crisis?

This tracker collects the policy decisions of major U.S. companies as they adapt to the pandemic.

How are the biggest companies treating their employees during the coronavirus crisis?
[Source Image: StudioM1/iStock]

Companies have had to quickly adapt to the new reality of the coronavirus pandemic, and some have done so: from salary cuts for CEOs to adding paid sick leave policies to commitments to pay hourly employees even when closed. Not all the changes are positive (and long overdue), though. Companies have also announced furloughs and layoffs, along with unpaid sick leave, and completely suspended services. The situation is changing rapidly, and it can be hard to keep up with what the largest U.S. employers are doing in response, and how helpful their efforts really are. A new tracker of corporate policies from Just Capital can help.

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Just Capital’s usual work involves surveying Americans on what they think companies should prioritize and then ranking companies according to which ones are the best at carrying out those behaviors, such as paying workers fairly and treating customers well. “Our mission and focus has become a lot more pronounced in the last couple of weeks, because it’s one thing to have a conversation about corporate purpose and leadership and stakeholder business behavior when the economy is good,” says Alison Omens, Just Capital’s chief strategy officer, “and it’s a different thing to be managing those issues in a crisis.”

[Image: Just Capital]

Just Capital’s COVID-19 Corporate Response Tracker is a way to take a deep dive into what choices major U.S. companies are making during the coronavirus pandemic, and how they’re making them. The tracker is focused on the 100 largest public employers in the U.S.—which includes Walmart, UPS, Target, Amazon, and CVS—and the current version looks at 16 dimensions of company response, from the expansion of paid sick leave and work-from-home policies and layoffs to customer accommodations and community relief funds. Just Capital contextualizes these efforts as well, clarifying, for instance, whether paid sick leave is contingent on having a confirmed case of COVID-19 or an overall broadening of the benefit, and how much time is offered.

Companies are changing their policies often, and the Just tracker will be updated multiple times a week with information directly from these companies as they make announcements about their updated policies and procedures. Omens says the tracker may expand as companies further implement changes. It’s also not just about keeping an eye on what companies are doing during the coronavirus crisis, when need is high, she says, but also about keeping them accountable as this crisis ends. “We know that the economy is not going to, you know, flip a switch back, so it’s really going to be important . . . that the investment in the workforce and their own workforces sort of continues in the long run, not just during this very specific period of time,” she says.

An analysis of the inaugural data from the tracker found that half of these 100 largest employers have made special customer accommodations such as reserving the first hour of shopping for especially vulnerable customers, and half have also set up work-from-home policies. More than one third have expanded or introduced paid sick leave policies, and 28% have continued to pay hourly employees affected by closures or service suspensions, including many in the tech community. So far, just 4% have announced layoffs, and 6% temporary furloughs.

“Right now it’s hard to assess how companies are doing relative to each other, since it’s so early,” Omens says. The tracker can help compare and contrast company responses, and also see the range of actions companies are taking: For instance, some have announced C-suite pay cuts but are simultaneously considering furloughs. Just Capital also released a list of principles to help guide these companies on the right steps they can take during the coronavirus crisis. Those principles include leadership support for workers’ health and financial security, including policies such as hazard pay; practices that could minimize job loss, such as shifting to a four-day workweek or shift-sharing; and calling on Congress to pass paid family and sick leave for all workers.

“We’ve heard a lot the last couple of years from companies on their commitment to their workforce, to their communities, to the environment, and this is really the moment that’s going to separate the wheat from the chaff in terms of companies that are really committed to operating in the long term, recognizing their very significant operational challenges and financial challenges that companies are experiencing right now,” Omens says. “We believe that this is really the time to see what leadership and what companies committed to living their values looks like, and it’s going to become really clear. It’s already becoming clear.”

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