Amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Amazon has confirmed that it will allow its "unlimited unpaid time off" policy expire at the end of the month. The news came Tuesday at the same time the company revealed that a fourth employee at its Indiana warehouse had tested positive for the virus and just a day before the company announced a fifth case at the facility in Jeffersonville, Indiana.
According to Business Insider, Amazon, in a series of text messages, acknowledged that its warehouse staff "may be nervous about coming into work" following the string of positive coronavirus cases, but said that "absences will not be penalized, and you may take unlimited unpaid time off through the end of April." The company added that employees who wish to take time off "have access to all their usual paid and unpaid time-off benefits."
Amazon had enacted the unlimited, unpaid time in March amid lingering concerns from workers as employees at warehouses across the country began testing positive for the virus. At the time, the company said in a statement that their "top priority is protecting people's health and we are actively supporting employees and contractors on an individual, case-by-case basis" and that they would "continue evaluating next steps should we see a much broader impact."
As the positive test results continue to come in, Amazon extended the policy through the month of April. The company confirmed to Business Insider, however, that it would not be extending that policy any further and that it will only last through the end of the month. The news has sparked new concern among employees, with one worker telling the outlet that they "think it means they want people who don't want to come to work to start quitting."
Amazon workers typically have a set amount of unpaid time off, or UPT, they can use, with the company keeping track employee infractions using a point system. In the past, employees have claimed that using up using up allotted unpaid time off can result in immediate dismissal.
"If you go negative, you're gone. I've seen people that have worked there five years, they went negative unpaid time, and they got rid of them just like that," a Tennessee warehouse worker told Business Insider in February of last year, with a separate employee telling the outlet that they were fired four days after Thanksgiving because they went into negative UPT.
Amazon, however, has put in place a number of other measures amid the pandemic. The company previously announced that all employees who test positive for the virus will continue to receive up to two weeks of paid leave. It has also begun to offer paid time off to part-time employees and boosted hourly wages by $2.