Kroger Brings in 'Hero Bonus' for Frontline Employees During Coronavirus Outbreak

Kroger, known for its chains of supermarkets, has announced that it will pay a "hero bonus" to hourly front-line employees during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

The pledge follows the company's announcement on March 21 where it committed to provide a one-time bonus to frontline associates, which they will receive on April 3. This latest bonus, which is a $2 premium above an hourly rate employees base rate of pay, will be applied to hours worked March 29 through April 18. To help employees have access to additional cash, Kroger will disburse the premium weekly.

"Our associates have displayed the true actions of a hero, working tirelessly on the frontlines to ensure everyone has access to affordable, fresh food and essentials during this national emergency," Rodney McMullen, Kroger's chairman and CEO, said in a release. "The Hero Bonus is just one more way we continue to convey our thanks and gratitude not only to our existing associates but also to the more than 30,000 new hires who have joined in the past two weeks and those who will soon join the Kroger Family of Companies."

As well as providing financial incentives to its employees, Kroger is also focusing on associate and customer well-being and safety, according to McMullen.

"During this unprecedented time, Kroger's most urgent priority is to provide a safe environment for associates and customers, with open stores and an efficiently operating supply chain," continued McMullen.

Kroger Signage 11
Kroger has been putting signage in place to help people with social distancing while shopping. Kroger

According to the company's press release, Kroger is taking the following measures to protect its staff and customers and flatten the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) curve:

  • Enhancing daily sanitation practices, including cleaning commonly used areas more often like cashier stations, self-checkouts, credit card terminals, food service counters and shelves
  • Permitting and working hard to procure protective masks and gloves for associates
  • Installing plexiglass partitions at check lanes, and pharmacy and Starbucks registers across the enterprise
  • Adding floor decals to promote physical distancing at check lanes and other counters
  • Adjusting store operating hours to allow more time for associates to rest, clean and replenish inventory
  • Continuing to expand pickup and delivery services and contactless payment solutions like Kroger Pay

Kroger has also committed to providing emergency paid leave to staff members who are affected by COVID-19, as well as making $5 million available for those facing hardship including lack of access to childcare and for those considered higher risk.

Joining the company in making the announcement, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), a labor union, said in a statement, "UFCW is proud to join the company today in announcing a $2 per hour wage increase, additional emergency paid leave, new workplace safety measures, and other critical worker protections.

"Working together, UFCW and Kroger have listened to workers and customers across the country to identify the most urgent needs and determine the best way to support these hardworking men and women on the front lines who are serving our communities every day throughout this national crisis," says UFCW international president Marc Perrone in a statement provided to Newsweek. "Today's increase in pay and benefits is a good first step in our ongoing conversations with Kroger to keep customers and workers safe in stores during this crisis.

"We look forward to continuing to work with Kroger to strengthen support and protections for these essential workers on the front lines of this outbreak as they continue to serve families across the country."

Outside of the supermarket, the Kroger Family of Companies, through the Kroger Co. Zero Hunger Zero Waste Foundation, has deployed more than $3 million in hunger-relief resources to communities disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic through its nonprofit partners, Feeding America and No Kid Hungry. The funding will support local food banks nationwide and fund initiatives that ensure children, whose schools might be closed, still have access to nutritious meals.

Updated at 10:42 a.m. ET, April 2, 2020, to include a statement from labor union UFCW.