Amazon won’t dock warehouse workers for missing shifts during coronavirus crisis

A worker handles a package at the Amazon fulfillment center in Baltimore, Maryland, April 30, 2019.

Clodagh Kilcoyne | Reuters

Amazon is relaxing its attendance policy for warehouse workers and other employees due to the continued spread of the coronavirus.

The company informed employees Sunday that it will not count any unpaid time (UPT) off should they need to take it during the month of March. Amazon made the change to ensure there are no repercussions for needing to stay home due to illness, the company told CNBC. 

The change of policy applies to any employee whose job requires them to “work from an office, store, fulfillment center, delivery station or sort center,” according to a document obtained by CNBC. Amazon also told employees it will not assign attendance points if they’re unable to come to work. The company uses a point system to track employee infractions in a given period of time.

An Amazon spokesperson said in a statement: “We continue to work closely with public and private medical experts to ensure we are taking the right precautions and have implemented a series of preventative health measures for employees, delivery and transportation partners at our sites around the world.” 

The spokesperson added that Amazon has increased the frequency and intensity of cleaning at all of its sites, asked employees to defer non-essential travel, moved to hosting video-based interviews for job candidates and communicated to employees to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer when soap isn’t available. Amazon is also requiring that employees sanitize and clean their work stations and vehicles at the start and end of every shift, the spokesperson said.

Amazon has made several adjustments to its workforce in recent weeks due to the coronavirus. Last week, Amazon told employees in its San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle and Bellevue, Washington offices to work from home if they can through the end of the month. The update came after Amazon said an employee who works in one of its Seattle offices tested positive for the new coronavirus formally named COVID-19. 

Unlike employees at Amazon’s corporate offices, many fulfillment center employees and delivery drivers cannot carry out their job duties while working from home. Amazon’s sprawling fulfillment network, which powers the one-day and two-day delivery customers have come to expect, employs more than 250,000 workers at more than 110 sites across the country. The company also relies, in part, on its own network of delivery service partners and Flex drivers to handle the last mile portion of the delivery process. 

CNBC previously reported Amazon advised Flex drivers to take extra precautions while out on the job, including washing their hands frequently and refraining from handshakes. The company also urged Flex drivers to contact Amazon if they have had “close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 patient.”

Last month, Amazon announced it was halting all fulfillment center tours in North America in light of the coronavirus outbreak. The company said it would resume tours “once there is more clarity on the global health situation.” 

As of Sunday night, there are now at least 110,034 confirmed cases of the coronavirus worldwide, with at least 3,825 deaths. Earlier on Sunday, the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. topped 500.