McDonald’s USA said it will pay quarantined workers at corporate-owned restaurants, a move made as a precautionary measure as the coronavirus situation evolves in the U.S.
The new policy, made late Tuesday, applies to company-store workers “asked to quarantine for 14 days,” the company said. Walmart on Tuesday established a similiar policy after a store worker tested positive for coronavirus in Kentucky.
“The health and wellbeing of our people, our customers and our communities is our highest priority and drives our decision making,” McDonald’s Corp. said in a statement sent to Nation’s Restaurant News. “As we proactively monitor the impact of the coronavirus, we are continuously evaluating our policies to provide flexibility and reasonable accommodations. Our people are the heart and soul of the McDonald’s family and, of course, we will support them through this unique circumstance.”
While there hasn't been a COVID-19 diagnosis among McDonald's employees, other chains have reported cases. Starbucks closed a Reserve store in Seattle over the weekend and quarantined staff after one employee was diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. On Tuesday, an employee at a Waffle House in Georgia tested positive.
McDonald’s, the third largest U.S. restaurant chain by units, has nearly 700 company operated stores. The rest, more than 13,150 restaurants, are owned by franchisees.
The company said sick leave policies vary by restaurants and by each market “in accordance with local laws.”
The Chicago-based chain said corporate-owned restaurants in the U.S. and many of its franchisees have “existing policies” in place to offer paid time off. Full- and part-time workers employed at company-operated stores earn up to five days of paid time off per year. McDonald's expects employees to stay home when they are sick.
Lack of paid sick leave in the hospitality industry has resurfaced as an issue among hourly workers as the coronavirus spreads throughout the U.S. Roughly 58% of service workers have access to paid sick leave, according to the Labor Department. Beyond that, there’s a culture within the industry where workers don’t call in sick for fear of retaliation or because they can’t afford to take unpaid time off.
Up until Monday, Orlando-based Darden Restaurants did not offer sick leave to thousands of hourly employees. The company, which owns a string of high-profile casual dining brands including Olive Garden and Longhorn Steakhouse, pivoted earlier this week when it added sick leave for 180,000 hourly workers who were not previously covered.
The rapid spread of coronavirus in the U.S.. has disrupted the industry in a variety of ways. Independent restaurants have been espeically hurt by cancelled or postponed conferences.
Last week, McDonald's said it would turn its World Wide Convention in Orlando into a virtual event. The National Owners Association, an advocacy group made up of McDonald’s franchisees, cancelled a meeting scheduled at the same time in Orlando.
While the outbreak of coronavirus is unpredictable and uncontrollable, McDonald’s said it remains committed to the highest standards of hygiene, cleanliness and well-being at its restaurants.
“We have been proactively monitoring the impact of coronavirus and taking measures to protect the health and safety of our people, our customers, and the broader community,” CEO Chris Kempczinski said in a statement last week.
Famed New York restaurateur and founder of Shake Shack, Danny Meyer, released a video late Tuesday to address the impact of coronavirus on his restaurants and the industry. He described the situation as “a big one” and compared it to previous economic downturns and 9/11.
“None of us have any idea how long this is going to last,” he said.
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