Olive Garden parent company Darden Restaurants Inc. announced Monday that it will provide paid sick leave to all hourly workers not currently covered by an insurance policy, spokesperson Rich Jeffers confirmed to FOX Business.
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The move comes as cases of the coronavirus continue to surge across the globe as health officials and federal, state and local authorities urge workers to say home if they are sick.
Under the policy, sick leave will accrue at a rate of one hour for every 30 worked, and current Darden employees will be credited for hours worked in their most recent 26 weeks. New employees will accrue time when they start working, but they cannot use the time earned until they’ve reached 90 days of employment.
Darden Restaurants President & CEO Gene Lee said, "We are fortunate to have outstanding team members working in our restaurants committed to bringing our brands to life and creating lasting memories for our guests. As we continue to make investments in our employees, we strengthen our greatest competitive edge — because when our team members win, our guests win.”
Darden's policy change comes after being singled out by political newsletter Popular Information, who said that a lack of paid sick leave could put employees in a difficult position of being unable to meet expenses, prompting employees to work through sickness and potentially contribute to the spread of the virus.
While Darden’s change in policy was already under consideration, the coronavirus outbreak sped up the process, Jeffers said.
According to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 55% of workers in the "accommodation and food services" industry have no paid sick leave.
Bloomberg was the first to report this story.