Amazon plans to subsidize 10 days of child care for all its workers, a move to make returning to work easier as thepandemic continues.
Employees will be able to access child care at a center for $25 per day, or in-home care for a child or adult for $5 an hour, Amazon said in a blog post on Tuesday. The perk is meant as a backup option in cases where a worker's existing arrangements fall through.
"We've heard from our employees that access to affordable family care, for both children and adults, is particularly challenging during the COVID crisis and we are committed to support them in this unprecedented time," Beth Galetti, Amazon senior vice president of Human Resources, said in the post.
The policy runs through October 2 and applies to all permanent Amazon and Whole Foods workers who work more than 20 hours a week, the company said. It is unclear if temporary workers and those hired through contracting agencies are eligible.
Workers have criticized Amazon — the third-most valuable U.S. company as gauged by investors — for being stingy with pay and benefits at a time its business is seeing unprecedented demand from Americans stuck at home.
In early March, as COVID-19 spread across the U.S., Amazon raised workers' hourly pay by $2 an hour and offered double pay for overtime. The company ended both policies at the end of May despite worker requests to extend them. Amazon also ended its policy of unlimited unpaid leave, which many warehouse workers had used to stay home with children after schools were shut down.
Since the start of the pandemic, Amazon has hired 170,000 workers, with about 125,000 of them expected to stay on permanently.
The new child care policy is in line with Amazon's competitors. Best Buy offers 10 days of backup child care a year, while Target reportedly offers 20.
Experts say the lack of child care for many workers could impede efforts to reopen the U.S. economy. Child care centers and schools closed early in the pandemic and remain shut, while some school districts are considering whether to continue distance-learning indefinitely.
Increasingly, stories also are emerging of women leaving jobs to take care of their children. A technology company founder profiled by the Washington Post dissolved her company so she could take care of her 3-year-old son, while another woman quit her part-time job to rely on her husband's income.
"For a lot of families, and a lot of women workers in particular, if the day cares are closed, schools are closed, summer camps are off — those women will not be able to reenter the workforce," C. Nicole Mason, president of the Institute for Women's Policy Research, told Face the Nation last week.