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Almost two weeks after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their guidelines for covid-19 isolation and quarantine — a decision some experts cited “reckless and dangerous”– the country’s second-largest private employer has decided that their pandemic response policies also needed a change.
In a message to U.S. employees on Friday, which the company provided to Gizmodo on Saturday, Amazon told employees it would reduce the paid leave it offers to people who test positive for Covid-19 and those who have been exposed to someone with it. virus after revising the CDC’s new guidelines. The company’s quarantine and isolation periods are now a week – seven calendar days – long, during which employees are given up to 40 hours of paid leave.
The post did not mention a negative covid-19 test to return to work. We’ve reached out to Amazon to clarify whether this is necessary.
Amazon previously provided employees with 10 days of paid leave. When the covid-19 policy for paid leave was introduced in 2020, the company originally provided employees with up to 14 days off. The most recent notification was reported by the Wall Street Journal and Engadget.
According to the notice, the new policy will take effect “immediately” and will apply to all employees in the US, whether or not they have been vaccinated. Nevertheless, Amazon said “additional leave options” are available to employees who still have Covid-19 after a week.
“As we have done during the COVID-19 pandemic, we will continue to work closely with public health authorities and our own medical experts to determine the most effective ways to keep our employees and our communities safe,” the company told Gizmodo. “We continue to believe that vaccinations are the best way to protect our employees and communities from COVID-19.”
Amazon added that it had hosted more than 1,800 free on-site vaccination events at its facilities in the US
The policy is in line with new CDC Guidance issued in late December stating that people with Covid-19 need only be in isolation for five days if they are asymptomatic. Those exposed to Covid-19 will only be allowed to quarantine for five days, the agency said. The new guidance is heavily criticized by experts in recent days for “confusing the public” and for not requiring people to test negative to leave isolation and quarantine, which could increase transmission of the virus.
This is yet another notable change in Amazon’s covid-19 response and employee policies in recent weeks. In December, in the light of a increase in infections in the US coupled with the latest omicron variant, it required its warehouse workers to re-mask even if they had been vaccinated.
Amazon’s announcement came days later walmart, the country’s largest private employer, also cut its paid sick leave from two weeks to one week for people with Covid-19 or those quarantined because of exposure. Individuals who remain ill after their paid leave has ended may be able to receive “additional covid-related pay for up to 26 weeks”. Reuters reported:.
Amazon and Walmart’s decisions could open the floodgates and inspire other employers to adopt similar policies. While the economy is certainly important, widespread policy change could force workers to make a difficult choice: go to work sick or not get paid. But in the end, refusing to support employees who are sick or potentially sick and letting the virus spread would cost us all more in the long run.
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