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Walmart, Largest US Employer, Orders Employees to Vaccinations | Economic and business news

The mandate includes all campus employees as well as market, regional and departmental employees, the retailer said.

Walmart Inc., the largest private employer in the United States, is demanding vaccination of its headquarters and regional employees by October 4, and is joining Google in rolling out a policy that could set a standard for American businesses as it becomes high contagious delta variant continues to spread.

The mandate includes all campus employees as well as market, regional and division employees who work in multiple facilities, said Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillon in a memo on Friday. How many of the retailer’s 1.5 million US workforce will be affected, a spokesman could not initially say. Walmart separately urged its employees in stores and warehouses on Friday to put masks back on and doubled the cash incentive it offers employees to get vaccinated to $ 150.

“The pandemic is not over yet, and the delta variant has spiked infection rates across much of the United States,” McMillon said in the memo. “We made a decision that all campus office staff and all store, regional and departmental staff working in multiple facilities must be vaccinated by October 4th, unless an approved exception exists. “

Walmart is closely watched by fellow business leaders grappling with the myriad of challenges of getting employees back to offices safely while looking after their frontline workers in stores, factories and distribution centers. This week, Google of Alphabet Inc. said workers returning to their offices must be vaccinated, and Apple Inc. has postponed its return to offices until October and started asking store workers to wear masks again.

Within minutes of Walmart’s announcements, rival grocer Kroger Co. said it would encourage even vaccinated employees and customers to wear masks in stores. Retail locations have become unintended battlegrounds for the broader cultural and political disputes over mask wearing, with some employee-customer confrontations becoming violent over the past year.

It will be difficult for large employers to expand vaccine mandates from office workers to frontline workers. At Albertson’s Cos. the vaccination rate of shop workers is close to the national average, said Chief Executive Officer Vivek Sankaran this week. That’s about 60%.

Smaller employers

But it’s not just corporate giants who are moving: According to Chief Operating Officer David Levine, the 230-strong PR consultant BerlinRosen has introduced a mandatory vaccination for every employee who wants to enter his three offices.

The Walmart CEO said there is a “small percentage” of employees who cannot be vaccinated for medical or religious reasons, and the spokesperson said they must “adhere to all social distancing standards, wear a mask while at work and be weekly Covid-19 tests received “. provided by Walmart. “

If Walmart employees apply for a medical or religious exemption but are not granted approval, they will be suspended for a period of time to receive the vaccination. If employees still refuse to be vaccinated, they will be fired.

Workers at the company’s Bentonville, Arkansas campus, which is in the middle of a complete architectural overhaul that won’t be completed before 2025, have been gradually returning to the offices for post-Labor Day pre-pandemic staffing to return . However, McMillon said he may need to adjust that timing.

The new mandate from Walmart will be applied to all new hires at the affected locations, the company said. Management also limits business travel to mission-critical travel, which could hurt the resurgence of air travel if its policies are followed by other large corporations.

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