- The American Staffing Association (ASA) launched this week an online directory allowing Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA)-member businesses deemed essential during the COVID-19 pandemic to find in-demand workers, a March 25 statement said.
- ASA's service is aimed at businesses that have an immediate, acute need for retail workers, like grocery stores and pharmacies, ASA said. In-demand roles include warehouse workers, store clerks who can perform unloading, stocking, cleaning and sanitizing duties, cashiers and greeters, forklift selectors and pickers, and delivery drivers.
- "Finding talent to address unprecedented demand for essential goods during this time of crisis is a top priority for select retailers," RILA president Brian Dodge said in the statement. "Staffing agencies are perfectly positioned to deploy temporary workers that have been displaced due to COVID-19 — especially the millions of retail workers that have been furloughed because governments have rightfully ordered their employers to close to try to stop the spread of the virus."
The COVID-19 epidemic has created disparate situations for U.S. retailers. On one hand, many have been forced to close at what some have called an unprecedented pace. But those businesses deemed essential, particularly grocery stores, now have to deal with demand that is "unlike anything we've seen before," as phrased by Nicholas Bertram, president of regional supermarket chain Giant Food Stores, in a statement.
That demand is forcing some grocers to recruit outside of their industry and form partnerships to find fill-in workers. Albertsons said this week it would partner with companies in the hospitality and entertainment industries, including theatre chain Regal Cinemas and MGM Resorts International, to help hire 30,000 new associates, HR Dive sister site Grocery Dive reported. The same site reported that grocery delivery service Instacart would seek to add 300,000 personal shoppers over the next three months.
But those already coming to work during the pandemic are voicing concerns about their health and safety. Moreover, staffs at some stores have been stretched thin to the detriment of sanitation practices like wiping down shelves, ProPublica reported. These concerns have led to at least one online petition calling for grocers and other retailers to standardize procedures that could protect workers.
Workers at some chains have contracted COVID-19, causing employers to implement emergency leave policies. Kroger said earlier this month that associates placed under mandatory quarantine would be given standard pay for up to 14 days, with eligibility for additional short-term coverage if necessary, Grocery Dive reported. Walmart, on top of rolling out an emergency leave policy, said it would waive its attendance policy through the end of April.
All of those decisions have occurred against a backdrop of rising unemployment claims: a news release Thursday from the U.S. Department of Labor showed that, for the week ending March 21, the total number of seasonally adjusted, initial unemployment claims stood at 3,283,000, the highest-ever level of such claims