Most companies commit to paying hourly workers who test positive for COVID-19

By Rick Bell

Mar. 25, 2020

There’s some good news for hourly workers as worries escalate regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.hourly employees pay money

A new survey by Willis Towers Watson revealed that 72 percent of employers in North America are committing to pay hourly workers who test positive for the coronavirus.

The survey, which was released March 23, also stated that 54 percent of those employers agree to compensate hourly workers whose workplace experiences a mandated closure and 51 percent will pay those hourly workers who have a cold or flu-like symptoms and voluntarily stay home.

Also read: The impact of COVID-19 on hourly and low-wage workers

However, just 36 percent of companies will continue paying hourly workers when they stay home because they don’t have child care.

According to the Willis Towers Watson’s  “COVID-19 Hourly Employee Pay Practices Survey,” which was conducted during the week of March 16, most organizations that will continue to pay hourly employees plan to do so for 10 to 15 days. The average organization will do so for 14 days at 100 percent of their current base rate, the survey stated, adding that it will vary based on the circumstances.

Also read: Scheduling headaches: How to better manage your hourly workers’ schedules

Organizations agree to pay employees under these conditions:

  • For employees with a confirmed COVID-19 case, 87 percent will pay hourly workers 100 percent of their current rate.
  • For employees whose workplace experiences a mandated closure, 94 percent will pay them 100 percent of their current rate.
  • For employees with a cold or flu-like symptoms who voluntarily stay home, 92 percent will pay them their full pay rate.

Some 44 percent will pay employees who can’t perform their duties at home but are involuntarily required to stay home due to quarantine at either 100 percent or less of their current rate without them having to draw from their paid time off, the survey stated.

Most employers (75 percent) don’t have plans to provide special treatment to employees who report to work when other employees are required to stay away from work.

However, more than 10 percent of employers have plans or are considering a range of options to recognize these employees, including adjusted (situational) overtime, additional paid time off to be used after COVID-19-related disruption and other forms of recognition. 

Of the 805 companies, 56 percent of which were multinationals, participated in the Willis Towers Watson COVID-19 Hourly Employee Pay Practices Survey.

It is clear that most employers are standing by their hourly employees, at least in the short term, said Adrienne Altman, managing director, North America lead, Rewards, Willis Towers Watson.

While many employers are still working to determine their overall strategy for responding to COVID-19, we see consistency in how they plan to manage pay for the affected portions of their hourly workforce,” Altman stated in a release regarding the survey.

Offer: COVID-19 is rapidly changing how businesses operate. We recognize that organizations need an extra helping hand right now. So we’re offering our GPS clock in tool for free to new sign-ups over the coming months. Sign up today and our Workforce Success team will provide a personal, online walkthrough of our platform to help you get started. It can be fully deployed in 1-2 days.

Rick Bell is Workforce’s editorial director. For comments or questions email

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