Amazon won't penalise warehouse workers for taking unpaid time off amid the coronavirus outbreak

Associated PressAn Amazon worker inside the Staten Island warehouse. This photo was taken in June 2019, before the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Amazon is not going to penalise warehouse workers for taking unpaid time off (UPT) this month due to the coronavirus outbreak,CNBC reports.
  • Previously workers only had a set amount of UPT and were assigned penalty points for lack of attendance.
  • An Amazon spokesperson also said warehouse staff are being required to clean their workstations and vehicles at the beginning and end of every shift
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Amazon, which is famous for its strict rules governing worker attendance, has issued a new policy meaning workers won’t get penalised for taking unpaid time off due to the coronavirus outbreak, CNBC reports.

A document sent to workers on Sunday and seen by CNBC said that Amazon employees who work from an “office, store, fulfillment centre [Amazon’s term for its warehouses], delivery station or sort centre” would benefit from the change in policy during the entire month of March.

Usually Amazon workers have a set amount of unpaid time off (UPT) they can take off and the company keeps track of employee infractions using a point system. Under the new policy, Amazon won’t dole out points for lack of attendance.

Speaking to Business Insider last year, workers said that using up allotted UPT – otherwise known as going into “negative UPT” – can result in immediate dismissal. “If you go negative, you’re gone. I’ve seen people that have worked there five years, they went negative unpaid time, and they got rid of them just like that,” a Tennessee warehouse worker told Business Insider. Responding to Business Insider at the time, an Amazon spokesperson said: “If an associate does run into a negative UPT balance, in each case we have a seek-to-understand conversation to recognise the associate’s situation and any mitigating circumstances.”

An Amazon spokesperson also told CNBC that the company now requires workers to thoroughly clean their workstations and vehicle at the beginning and end of every shift.

Two Amazon warehouse workers in Milan, Italy were confirmed to have contracted the novel coronavirus last week, and the company has encouraged office staff at its HQ in Seattle to work from home after one of its workers there tested positive and was quarantined.

An Amazon spokesperson told Business Insider: “Our top priority is protecting people’s health and we are actively supporting employees and contractors on an individual, case-by-case basis. We will continue evaluating next steps should we see a much broader impact.”

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