Editor’s note: This story was updated throughout with corrected points and other policy information from Walmart.
Walmart is putting more preference on worker attendance and tying attendance to its “Myshare” bonuses paid to store employees, the retailer announced in connection with its Year Beginning Meetings held last week in Houston.
The new program was effective Feb. 2 and impacts roughly 300,000 hourly employees in stores and its U.S. supply chain. Walmart said the new policy is focused on being better able to help customers at the busiest times in stores.
“We’re constantly testing, learning and seeking feedback to improve our stores for associates and customers. This change, along with previous wage investments, parental leave, adoption and other benefits, is another important step on our journey to be the employer of choice,” said Drew Holler, vice president of associate experience for Walmart U.S.
Walmart is incentivizing workers to show up on weekends and holidays because the new system penalizes them if they call in sick or don’t show up as scheduled, sources have told Talk Business & Politics.
The new protocol is based on a 5-point system, down from 9 points in the past. Workers are tagged with 1 point if they call in and don’t show up as scheduled between Thursday through Sunday. Unexpected absences on a holiday or key event dates published quarterly result in a 3-point maximum, according to Walmart corporate spokesman Justin Rushing. He said employees that accrue 5 points could face termination and everyone has the same policy regardless of tenure.
Walmart reset the points to 0 on Feb. 2. Rushing said there are some nuances around half-point demerits that could result if a worker leaves a shift early without manager approval. Walmart said workers with a spotless attendance policy will be eligible for an increased bonus known as Myshare payout based on the store’s overall performance.
Walmart said perfect attendance is worth a 25% bump to the bonus with workers earning 125% of the share. Workers with 0.5 to 2 points on their attendance record will get their full bonus. With 2.5 to 3.5 points, workers will receive only 50% of the bonus. At 4 points, employees are no longer eligible to earn a Myshare bonus.
Holler also said the retail giant is introducing a protected Paid Time Off program that gives hourly workers a bank of time to use when they unexpectedly can’t make it to work. He said absences covered by the new PTO plan don’t impact a worker’s attendance record. He said employees in most locations can earn up to 48 hours of protected PTO a year. This time can be used to cover an unplanned absence. He said the changes are based on feedback from employees who wanted more flexibility when life happens, while also being rewarded for consistently showing up to work.
“Our associates told us they wanted to be rewarded for their dedication, and we couldn’t agree more,” Holler said.
Walmart’s new protected PTO guidelines allow for one hour accrual for every 30 hours worked regardless tenure. Protected PTO caps at 48 hours annually and rolls over if not used. Rushing said workers will earn enough time to cover an 8-hour shift in about six weeks, under the new protected PTO program.
The company’s standard PTO program, which does not protect against the point system, is based on years of service. Walmart workers can combine the two PTO systems which increases their overall eligible time off to 120 hours in the first two years, growing to 176 hours by year four. Only protected PTO can be used when a worker calls in sick or has an unexpected absence at work. The other PTO is used for approved time off set up in advance.
“We know that associates are our best idea generators, and their comments continue to help us reimagine how we serve our customers and support the unique needs of our associates,” Holler said.
Worker sentiment around the new PTO announcement was mixed. Several naysayers posting on social media said Walmart should credit already earned sick pay to the protected PTO bank. Others said the change needed to happen as too often workers in their stores call in sick on the weekends, leaving store management scrambling to cover the void.
Walmart said it makes no distinction between sick time and other paid time off. Rushing said all employees retained their standard paid time off and the new program pertains only to unexpected absences for any reason. He said employees can still use traditional PTO to get paid when they have an expected absence, but it will not keep them from getting a point — only the protected PTO can do that.
Walmart in 2018 rolled out a new automated scheduling program called “My Walmart Schedule.” Workers have the ability through the app to swap shifts with a coworker if they can find someone willing to switch. Walmart said it also gives workers a chance to pick up extra hours while helping someone else save paid time off.