While many companies have laid off thousands of workers due to the coronavirus pandemic, retail healthcare providers want to add to their ranks to meet a rising demand.
The nation's largest retail pharmacy chains—CVS Health and Walgreens—plan to recruit nearly 60,000 additional employees combined to fill openings. The companies will also offer cash bonuses to employees currently working at their stores during the pandemic.
CVS on Monday said it was seeking to hire 50,000 store associates, home delivery drivers, distribution center employees and customer service professionals for part-time, full-time and temporary roles at its nearly 10,000 stores.
The company will conduct job fairs, interviews and job tryouts virtually. Many of those roles will be filled by furloughed workers from hotel chains Hilton and Marriott. The hotel industry has been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic as people avoid non-essential travel and stay in their homes to reduce the risk of contracting the virus. More than 3 million hotel industry jobs either already have been or will be eliminated in the next few weeks as their employers see an estimated 25% drop in room occupancies, according to the American Hotel and Lodging Association.
"Our colleagues have demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to providing essential goods and services at a time when they're needed most," CVS Health CEO Larry Merlo said in a statement. "As they continue to be there for the individuals and families we serve, we're taking extra steps to provide some peace of mind and help them navigate these uncertain times."
CVS workers will be eligible for bonuses ranging from $150 to $500. Walgreens will give full-time employees a one-time $300 payment and part-time employees a $150 bonus beginning in late April.
In addition to bonuses, CVS next month will begin covering 25 days of child, elderly or adult-dependent care for employees. The company has also made 24 hours of paid sick leave available to part-time employees during the outbreak and provides 14 days of paid sick leave for workers who need to quarantine due to the virus.
Walgreens wants to fill more than 9,500 existing full-time, part-time and temporary job openings for customer service associates and pharmacy technicians in its more than 9,200 locations. Last week, the company started to reduce operating hours at its stores to allow for cleaning, sanitizing and stocking shelves each day.
Walgreens began offering its hourly employees the option to stay at home through the end of April if they are concerned about virus exposure or child-care needs. The company will pay up to two weeks of paid leave for workers who contract the virus and must quarantine. Workers in facilities that have shut down under quarantine orders will be paid during their absence without the need to use their paid time off, according to the company.
Walgreens wants to start filling the empty positions next week to bolster in-store staffing, and some temporary positions could lead to full-time employment, Walgreens spokeswoman Alexandra Brown said in an email.
"We play a critical role in responding to the pandemic and our team members, who are the face of Walgreens, are doing everything they can to support customers, patients and communities across America, who are relying on us at this critical time," Walgreens President Richard Ashworth said in a statement.
The moves by both retail drug chains comes after receiving criticism for not reducing employees' risk of exposure to COVID-19 by maintaining walk-in access to stores. Both CVS and Walgreens intend to keep stores open during the outbreak.
Last week, a Change.org petition called for the pharmacy chains to limit stores to drive-through access only to ensure employee and customer safety. The petition had 49,000 signatures as of Monday afternoon.
"Let's get pharmacy employees the help they need right now," the petition stated.
As the world reacts to the unpredecedented COVID-19 pandemic, Modern Healthcare is covering the virus and its impact on the healthcare industry. Our coronavirus-related stories are free to the public, and we ask that you support our journalism here.