The big-box retailer announced Thursday it will be increasing its starting wage rate for hourly employees in the U.S.to $11, and is expanding maternity and parental leave benefits.
The pay increase and bonus will benefit more than 1 million United States hourly workers, it said, but the pay increase remains far below the $15 an hour unions and pressure groups say is needed to make up for decades of low growth in retail wages. The minimum wage increase goes into effect February 17.
The increase in wages will cost approximately $300m on top of wage hike plans that had been included in next fiscal year's plans, the company said.
Walmart said that the one-time bonus will be given to all eligible full and part-time hourly US employees. (The company now offers six to eight weeks of partially paid maternity leave and no parental leave.) The Bentonville, Arkansas-based company will also offer adoption benefits for $5,000 per child to full-time hourly and salaried employees.
"Today, we are building on investments we've been making in associates, in their wages and skills development", Walmart president and CEO Doug McMillon said in a news release. "It's our people who make the difference and we appreciate how they work hard to make every day easier for busy families".
Wal-Mart employs about 2.2 million people globally, with more than 1.5 million in the USA and had total global revenue of almost $500 billion past year.
McMillon said Walmart is in the "early" stages of assessing opportunities from the GOP tax plan, adding "tax reform gives us the opportunity to be more competitive globally and to accelerate plans for the U.S".
An expanded parental and maternity leave policy, providing full-time hourly associates in the US with 10 weeks of paid maternity leave and six weeks of paid parental leave.
Parental leave has been another area in which retailers including Target and Ikea have been trying to offer better benefits. That helped spur the long stretch of steady comparable sales growth it has enjoyed recently: When it invested in better pay and more training for workers, that translated into better-stocked shelves and friendlier customer service.
Walmart said hourly employees at its websites, distribution centers and its Bentonville, Arkansas, headquarters, will benefit from the wage increase.
Plus, Walmart knows from experience what raising wages can do to help boost business.
Over the past two years, Walmart has raised its starting hourly wages twice, to $9 and then to $10. It has done well and strengthened its hand in online retail as many other retailers have struggled.
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