May 12, 2020 - Economy

Breaking down hazard pay

Worker holding a sign

Protesting for higher pay outside of a Boston Whole Foods. Photo: Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Although some companies have temporarily raised wages as a form of hazard pay for essential workers, the majority have not.

By the numbers: Those offering hazard pay include 46% of grocers and other essential retailers and 29% of health-related employers, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Why it matters: The argument for hazard pay is simple: Compensation should account for risks taken at work. "In the investment world, the more risk you take, the more money you make," says UFCW's Perrone. "In this case, we have workers taking more risks and being more productive."

What's happening: Some lawmakers have proposed including hazard pay for essential workers as part of the next coronavirus relief package.

  • Sen. Mitt Romney's "Patriot Pay" plan would give up to $12 an hour in bonuses to those making under $50,000 a year.
  • House Democrats' proposal, released today, includes a $200 billion "Heroes Fund" to provide hazard pay to essential workers.

The bottom line: Without federal action, pay for low-wage essential workers will dwindle back to pre-pandemic levels, as more and more firms follow Kroger's example.

Go deeper