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Employees can opt in to the COVID-19 leave of absence policy and go on unpaid leave through Sept. 30, Starbucks Executive Vice President Rossann Williams said in a letter posted on the company's website. Workers who choose to enter the program will have their health care premiums covered in full by Starbucks and retain access to their existing benefits.
Starbucks employees who take the voluntary leave of absence would be free to “explore any COVID-19 federal and state unemployment compensation,” including $600 in weekly assistance under the CARES Act, Williams added. Starbucks plans to consult with store managers and provide further details about the leave of absence program next week.
“I know some partners who are facing reduced hours may prefer to take this opportunity to pursue a different path outside Starbucks, and we are considering how to best support and care for these partners as well,” Williams said.
Starbucks has reopened about 85 percent of its U.S. stores with modified operations this month after weeks of limited operation during the pandemic. The extent of store operations and hours varies by location based on local public health guidance, ranging from drive-thru service and delivery to contactless pickup and in-store, to-go orders.
Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson warned last week that many stores “will not require the same level of staffing” as they did prior to the pandemic. The company expects work schedules to recover over time as states relax pandemic-related restrictions.
The coffeehouse chain has taken a number of steps to support employees during the pandemic, including expanded paid sick leave and an extra $3 in hourly wages for employees who came in to work their normal shifts. Starbucks enacted the enhanced benefits in March and extended them through the end of May.
Starbucks previously offered a 30-day paid leave program for employees who were uncomfortable coming into work during the pandemic.