Home Depot makes virus-linked changes at stores, ups worker benefits

Retailer to redirect protective masks to hospitals, healthcare workers

Home Depot said Wednesday it is limiting the number of customers in its stores, curtailing opening hours, adding paid leave for employees and ending sales of protective masks.

In response to the deepening coronavirus crisis, N95 masks have been taken off Home Depot store shelves and donated to hospitals, health care providers and first responders. Such masks, intended to protect the wearer and others, remain in short supply.

The changes are viewed as temporary responses to the pandemic, Craig Menear, chief executive of the Atlanta-based retailer, said in a statement. "We want to thank our associates and our customers for their patience and cooperation as we work through this challenge together."

Other large retailers in recent days have also made changes to shopping to protect workers and customers. Walmart, for example, has mandated one-way aisles in its stores and said it is providing workers with gloves. Some companies are adding "hazard pay" for front-line workers.

Home Depot has more than 27,000 employees and 91 stores in Georgia. It is the largest company based in the state, with revenue last year of about $110 billion.

Among the changes announced Wednesday at its stores:

— Stores will close at 6 p.m. to allow more time for sanitizing and restocking.

— The number of customers allowed in stores will be limited.

— Floors will be marked to encourage customers and employees not to congregate.

— Spring promotions are being eliminated, specifically to decrease the number of customers in stores.

Home Depot also announced increased pay and benefits for its workers:

— It added 80 hours of paid time off for all full-time workers and 40 hours of paid time off for part-time workers. The time off can be “at their discretion at any time in 2020,” the company said. If not used, it will be paid out at year-end.

— Full-time workers who are 65 years or older have been given an additional 160 hours of paid time off. Part-time workers receive 80 hours of paid time off.

— Any employee who contracts COVID-19 gets paid time off until given approval to work by a doctor.

— Any employee required to spend time in quarantine by a health official will get up to 14 days paid time off.

— Home Depot is paying bonuses of $100 per week for full-time employees and $50 per week for part-time workers.

— Overtime work will be paid at double the usual hourly rate.

— The company has waived co-pays on health benefits.

Home Depot has 2,292 stores and more than 400,000 employees.