Walmart, Citing Tax Cuts, Will Raise Starting Wages and Expand Benefits

Walmart, Citing Tax Cuts, Will Raise Starting Wages and Expand Benefits

The company is also trying to improve customer service in its roughly 4,700 stores around the United States, many of which have shown signs of low employee morale and untidiness.

The higher wages could also help Walmart burnish its public image as it battles Amazon for online sales, analysts said. Walmart has been criticized for years over its low wages, unpredictable scheduling of workers and high health care costs.

“Amazon has been viewed as a good citizen,’’ said Burt P. Flickinger III, managing director of Strategic Resource Group, a retail consulting firm. “Walmart has been viewed as a bad citizen who is getting better.”

Walmart said Thursday it was still determining how much it would save as a result of the corporate tax cuts, although the savings are likely to be in the billions of dollars. In citing the pay raises and bonuses, the retailer joined other large companies — including AT&T, Southwest Airlines and Wells Fargo — that have said savings under the tax law provided the impetus for making similar moves.

Walmart is the nation’s single largest corporate taxpayer and its federal tax contributions account for almost 2 percent of all corporate income taxes collected by the Treasury.

Raising the starting wage would cost about $300 million and the bonuses will total about $400 million, Walmart said.

The company also said on Thursday that it was expanding its maternity- and parental-leave policies to give full-time hourly employees 10 weeks of maternity leave and six weeks of paid parental leave. Those workers previously received up to eight weeks of maternity leave at half-pay, and were not entitled to parental leave. The change will give full-time hourly workers at Walmart stores the same maternity- and parental-leave benefits as the company’s salaried employees.

The changes in the leave policy are particularly expansive, putting shelf-stockers and cashiers on the same footing as many white-collar, college-educated workers across corporate America.

“It’s our people who make the difference, and we appreciate how they work hard to make every day easier for busy families,” Walmart’s chief executive, Doug McMillon, said in a statement.

The new maternity-leave policy will not apply to part-time workers, who make up a significant percentage of the company’s hourly work force.

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