Banks supplement benefits to help employees affected by coronavirus

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As the novel coronavirus spreads throughout the U.S., banks are adding extra benefits for employees working in branches as well as those pulled away from work to deal with illness and caregiving responsibilities.

They are paying bonuses to front-line employees still working, or offering extra paid time off for those who are sick or self-quarantined, financial assistance with child care, or virtual doctors’ appointments. In a global pandemic, the added benefits aren’t just the right thing to do for employees, they’re also a valuable public health measure that could help slow the disease’s spread, bankers say.

The $473 billion-asset Truist in Charlotte, N.C., for example, said that it would increase paid time off and family care benefits and pay a special childcare allowance to employees making less than $50,000 per year. And JPMorgan Chase said Friday that it will pay $1,000 bonuses to branch employees who make less than $60,000 and continue to work on-site.

"Keeping employees and customers as safe as possible is every bank's top priority, which is why banks are embracing telework and social distancing, providing paid sick leave, expanding safe banking services through drive-up windows, and personalized 'golden hours' appointments for at-risk seniors,” Paul Benda, the enior vice president, risk and cybersecurity policy at the American Bankers Association said in an email. “These efforts are just one way America's banks are trying to stop the spread of COVID-19, while still supporting the economy."

The additional benefits are just one way the banking industry has responded to the impacts of the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. Over the past two weeks, banks have also reduced and eliminated travel, sent many employees home to work remotely, and closed or limited access to branches.

The virus first emerged in the U.S. in late January, but spread fast in March and soon reached pandemic status. The U.S. had 10,442 cases of coronavirus, including 150 deaths, as of Friday morning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Epidemiologists have recommended that people isolate themselves in order to slow the disease’s spread and avoid overwhelming the health care system.

Often, that means employees need to miss work, whether they are sick, caring for a family member, watching a child home from school, or need to self-quarantine and are unable to work remotely. Paid time off and other benefits are largely intended to discourage people from coming into the workplace and potentially spreading the virus because they are afraid of missing a paycheck.

JPMorgan Chase said it would continue to pay branch employees for their usual hours at the roughly 20% of its branches it has temporarily closed and others where it has reduced hours.

Truist also said late on Friday that it would pay an extra $1,200 to all of its employees making less than $100,000 a year. A company spokesman said that about 78%, or 45,000, of its employees would receive the payment this week.

The $390.4 billion-asset Capital One said that branch employees who continue to work on-site would receive an additional $10 per hour. Other customer support employees, like call center staff, would receive an extra $5 per hour, the bank said.

Ally Financial in Detroit said that it would offer immediate paid medical leave for employees diagnosed with COVID-19 and paid caregiver leave for those who need to care for family members. Additionally, the $180.6 billion-asset company said it would offer staff free access to mental health professionals by phone or text, as well as online health care services.

“Anxiety comes out of all of us in different ways and we need to be really in tune with people,” Diane Morais, Ally’s president of consumer and commercial banking products, said in a phone interview Friday. “We’re really trying to care for our people. If we don’t have a healthy and strong workforce, then we’re not going to be able to do our best for our customers.”

Synovus in Columbus, Ga., said it would provide 10 days of immediate paid time off to employees who are diagnosed with COVID-19 or who need to self-quarantine and are unable to work remotely.

The $48 billion-asset bank also said it would pay an extra $50 per day, up to $500 per pay period, to employees who are designated as critical and need to work on-site, such as tellers. Those employees can also receive up to 10 days of pay if they have to miss work because of “a hardship created by school, childcare, or eldercare facility closures.”

The $12.3 billion-asset WSFS Financial in Wilmington, Del., is offering its employees 14 days of paid leave for childcare or other events related to the virus, a spokeswoman said.

Webster Financial in Waterbury, Conn., said it had also come with a plan to pay employees who need to take time off to care for loved ones. After employees use five of their own paid days off, the $30.4 billion-asset bank will pay them for any other days they need to miss work for the next 30 days, a spokeswoman said.

Santander U.S., a unit of Spanish banking giant Banco Santander, said that it has established a temporary emergency paid leave program, offering up to 80 hours of paid time off for staff who need to miss work for reasons related to the virus.

“We have resiliency plans in place, and have taken numerous precautionary measures to help mitigate the risk of contagion, including suspending non-essential business travel, instructing all employees with non- location-dependent jobs to work from home, and postponing, cancelling or moving larger group meetings to a virtual format,” A spokeswoman told American Banker via email.

This story has been updated to include new programs from Capital One and Truist.

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Employee benefits Workplace management JPMorgan Chase Truist Financial Ally Financial Coronavirus
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