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Amazon asks workers to request leave if they continue staying at home

Warehouse workers will need reasons to avoid work after May 1st.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
April 25, 2020
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NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 30: Amazon employees hold a protest and walkout over conditions at the company's Staten Island distribution facility on March 30, 2020 in New York City. Workers at the facility, which has had numerous employees test positive for the coronavirus, want to call attention to what they say is a lack of protections for employees who continue to come to work amid the coronavirus outbreak. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Amazon warehouse workers wanting to stay home to avoid COVID-19 will soon have to make a formal request. The online retailer is asking staff staying home to either report to their shifts starting May 1st or else request a leave of absence. A spokesperson told Bloomberg that the leave option would be available to both part- and full-time workers, while a company blog post made clear that leave would be granted for a range of COVID-19 circumstances like “high-risk individuals” (including family members) and school closures.

The internet giant also tried to reassure workers and the public that the working conditions would be better. It emphasized that it was conducting temperature checks, and that it hoped to start directly testing some employees for COVID-19 “soon.” It was also extending a $2 increase to hourly base pay through May 16th.

The decision illustrates the balance Amazon is trying to strike. It’s determined to avoid a staffin shortfall as it continues to struggle with high demand during the pandemic, but it’s also facing a backlash from workers concerned it isn’t doing enough to protect them against the new coronavirus. The new approach to leave theoretically addresses both sides, although it may leave some uncomfortable as they’re pressured to either take the risk of infection at work (however large or small it might be) or find a new job in an extremely unforgiving market.

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