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Press Release

Majority of North American companies will pay hourly workers who test positive for COVID-19


Total Rewards|Health and Benefits|Talent
COVID 19 Coronavirus

March 19, 2020

Arlington, VA, March 19, 2020 — Amid rising anxiety levels over COVID-19 (coronavirus), North American employers have some good news for their hourly employees.

A new survey by Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW), a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company, finds a majority of employers will continue to pay hourly workers who test positive for the virus (72%), whose workplace experiences a mandated closure (54%), or who have a cold or flu-like symptoms and voluntarily stay home (51%). However, only about one-third of companies (36%) will continue paying hourly workers when they stay home because they don’t have childcare.

“Most employers are standing by their hourly employees, at least in the short term,” said Adrienne Altman, managing director, North America lead, Rewards, Willis Towers Watson. “While many employers are still working to determine their overall strategy for responding to COVID-19, we see consistency in how they plan to manage pay for the affected portions of their hourly workforce.”

According to the survey, most companies that will continue to pay hourly employees plan to do so for 10 to 15 days, with the typical organization doing so for 14 days, at 100% of their current base rate, although that will vary based on the circumstances.

For organizations that are paying employees under these conditions:

  • For employees with a confirmed COVID-19 case, 87% of employers will pay them 100% of their current rate.
  • For employees whose workplace experiences a mandated closure, 94% will pay them 100% of their current rate.
  • For employees with a cold or flu-like symptoms who voluntarily stay home, 92% will pay them their full pay rate.

More than four in 10 companies (44%) will pay employees who can’t perform their duties at home but are involuntarily required to stay home due to quarantine at either 100% or less of their current rate without them having to draw from their paid time off.

Most employers (75%) don’t have plans to offer special treatment to employees who report to work when other employees are required to stay away from work. However, more than 10% of employers have plans or are considering a range of options to recognize these employees, including adjusted (situational) overtime, additional paid time off to be used after COVID-19-related disruption and other forms of recognition.

“Most organizations have not yet established new practices to recognize the efforts of employees who stay at work to carry on operations while other employees are unable to work. We expect this critical area will get more attention in the coming weeks,” concluded Alex Weisgerber, senior director, Rewards, Willis Towers Watson.

About the survey

A total of 805 companies, 56% of which were multinationals, participated in the Willis Towers Watson COVID-19 Hourly Employee Pay Practices Survey. The survey was conducted during the week of March 16, 2020. Respondents employ over 4 million workers in North America.

About Willis Towers Watson

Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW) is a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company that helps clients around the world turn risk into a path for growth. With roots dating to 1828, Willis Towers Watson has 45,000 employees serving more than 140 countries and markets. We design and deliver solutions that manage risk, optimize benefits, cultivate talent, and expand the power of capital to protect and strengthen institutions and individuals. Our unique perspective allows us to see the critical intersections between talent, assets and ideas — the dynamic formula that drives business performance. Together, we unlock potential. Learn more at

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