Amazon CEO, Andy Jassy, acknowledges during the GeekWire Summit in Seattle (Oct 5) that they could have done a better job in assisting employees during the pandemic, especially on paid leave. In March 2020, Amazon announced it would provide up to two weeks of paid sick leave for employees who contracted with Covid-19. In practice, however, Amazon’s highly automated human resources systems were overloaded with Covid-19 leave requests. Bloomberg reported employees were mistakenly denied sick leave or threatened with termination due to this incident.
“Amazon is not taking care of us,” said a warehouse worker to CNBC as she explained her struggle in getting paid despite sick leave policy. Other four workers also admitted to have received no pay or were only given 60% of their typical weekly paycheck. A worker noted that there were “lots of hoops that workers have to jump through” in order to receive their paid leave.
Jassy attributed the shortcomings to the population of the company. “I think if you have a large group of people like we do — we have 1.2 million employees — it’s almost like a small country,” Jassy said as quoted by CNBC. “There are lots of things you could do better.”
Amazon and other e-commerce platforms are among the few whose sales have been exponentially escalated by the pandemic after the surge of online orders. But the sales spike also generated unprecedented problems such as the company’s relationship with employees who couldn’t work remotely. Amazon disclosed nearly 20,000 front-line workers contracted Covid-19 between March 1 and September 19, 2020.
“We don’t pretend that we’re perfect,” Jassy said. “Sometimes I think there are exaggerations and anecdotal references that aren’t reflective of the whole. But there’s plenty we can keep working on and that we will be working on.”
September this year, Amazon announced they would pay college fees of 750,000 frontline US workers, an offer specifically rolled out to attract and retain staff amid a labour shortage. Amazon will also cover other education expenses including high school diplomas and English-language courses, as well as extending on-the-job career training to 300,000 people.