Retailers Earn Praise for Pandemic Responses

But a new Forbes lists also notes problems for businesses
Target and other food retailers have earned high marks for their pandemic responses.

The pandemic is a time of great pain, of course, but every crisis offers a chance to shine. That applies to retailers as well, and according to Forbes, such chains as Target, Walmart, Dollar General, The Kroger Co., Walgreens Boots Alliance and CVS Health have put in top work in responding to the needs of employees and communities during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The list includes banks and telecoms but those retailers were among the top performers on the new Forbes list of top corporate responders during the pandemic. Kroger was given high marks for its expanded sick and emergency leave policy, along with its COVID-19 testing program and its temporary pay increases and bonuses.

For its part, Walmart earned praise because of the $1 billion or so in cash bonuses awarded to associates and its efforts to hire restaurant and hospitality workers who lost income when most businesses closed their doors or severely cut back operations.

In making the list, Forbes said it judged “how well the 100 largest employers among U.S. public companies responded to the public health crisis. It is a snapshot in time, analyzing companies’ policies from mid-March through May 7 across 22 categories, from relaxed attendance policies to community relief funds, on a rising scale of 1 to 5. The numbers were then averaged into an overall composite score.”

Dollar General also achieved a Top 25 ranking on that new Forbes list. During the pandemic the company has expanded sick leave for employees and increased their access to “telehealth” services. “For employees not enrolled in Dollar General medical plans, we provided an additional opportunity to enroll in our Telehealth Programs, which provides affordable healthcare options to employees without physically visiting a healthcare provider’s office,” Dollar General said. “We are also currently waiving all Telehealth co-pays for employees covered until Dollar General’s medical plans.”

Despite the positive vibe of this list effort, Forbes does note that not everything has gone well in the corporate and retail realms during the pandemic. “These companies are not free of controversies,” the magazine said. “Some have been criticized for ending policies, such as ‘hero’ pay, too soon. Others are facing lawsuits for wrongful death of workers or allegedly failing to safeguard the health of staff and customers. Perhaps a bigger question is whether the policy changes brought out by Covid-19 will be temporary or have a lasting impact on corporate America.”

Indeed, Kroger recently said it would end its "Hero Pay" for some 450,000 workers who have been receiving the $2 per hour premium. "We are extremely disappointed by Kroger’s decision to end Hero Pay and we know that our members are disappointed as well," said Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers. "At the beginning of this crisis, Kroger first called these workers 'heroes' and now they have decided that they’ve stopped being heroes. 

Cincinnati-based Kroger is No. 3 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2020 list of the top food retailers in the United States, while Minneapolis-based Target is No. 7. Bentonville-Arkansas-based Walmart U.S. is No. 1 on The PG 100while Walmart-owned Sam's Club ranks No. 9 on the list.  Deerfield, Illinois-based Walgreens Boots Alliance is No. 4 and Woonsocket, Rhode Island-based CVS Health is No. 6 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2020 list of the top food retailers in the United States.

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