A letter to partners: Comprehensive partner care as we adapt to COVID-19

An open letter to Starbucks partners from Rossann Williams, evp and president, U.S. company-operated business and Canada

Dear partners,

From day one, our commitment to you has been to make proactive decisions, based on the facts and science, with our three guiding principles: ensuring your safety and well-being, supporting our public health and government officials and being in service to our communities. As we navigate the way forward, you have my word that we will continue to do what’s right for you and your families, so you feel supported every step of the way.

Like many of you, I’ve been thinking about Starbucks role and responsibility as our country faces the harsh realities of COVID-19. More than 17 million Americans have now filed for unemployment, and many of you have shared how the crisis has hit home, impacting your loved ones. I am grateful to work for a company where we can make the decisions necessary to care for our partners through a crisis like this, and we’re going to do everything we can to continue to make that a priority. But we must act urgently – together. As states begin to relax their stay-at-home orders and more communities prepare to reopen, we will need to get our stores back up and running, wherever it is safe and responsible to do so, so we can keep every partner employed and be a light for our communities through this next phase of rebuilding and recovery.

Some of you have asked if we will be able to re-open all our stores at once, and to be honest, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. The impact of COVID-19 varies across communities, and decisions will need to be made locally, with our field leaders, store managers and local health experts. As Kevin shared in his letter, we are entering a phase of “monitor and adapt” and will need to modify operations to Drive-Thru, Delivery, MO&P or Entryway Handoff only, store by store, with best in class safety protocols. We will use the strongest data available to help us assess a store’s readiness, considering things like the trajectory of the virus, local mandates, operational capabilities and customer and partner sentiment. And even if we can re-open a store, we will always pause to consider should we re-open, so we can support our field leaders in making the best decisions possible. I have full confidence in the approach because 1) we did this successfully in China, where over 95% of all stores have now re-opened, 2) we are already operating modified formats in half our stores in the U.S. and 3) we have the best partners in the business to help execute this thoughtfully, with partner care front and center.

With that in mind, here’s how we’re going to approach this next phase:

Beginning May 4, we will re-open as many stores as we can with modified operations and best in class safety measures, and intend for any partner who is healthy and well to come back to work. We will make time the first week of May to reconnect as a team and welcome back our partners. And we’ll do this in a way that only Starbucks can – celebrating each other, making time for training across our new formats and safety protocols and re-immersing in our mission and purpose as a team.

To support our partners, we will extend Service Pay through the end of May with an additional $3 per hour for anyone who is healthy and choosing to work, and we will similarly extend Catastrophe Pay for partners who have been diagnosed or exposed to COVID-19, so they can stay home and self-isolate. We will continue our expanded Food/Beverage benefit and expanded Care@Work benefit with 20 backup days. All other benefits like Lyra for free mental health support, paid sick leave, paid time off, and more are always available, whether you are working or being supported with Catastrophe Pay. We will also continue to have Catastrophe Pay available for partners whose stores have to close, or stay closed, during May. And in order to ensure partners are paid for their average baseline hours, we will make Catastrophe Pay available to help close the gap between hours worked on Service Pay and average baseline hours through May 31.

For those partners whom the CDC has identified as at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, or partners who live with a health care worker who works with COVID-19 patients, I encourage you to connect with your leader in the coming weeks so we can better understand your specific circumstances and how we can best help you manage your situation. That could include placing you in a lower risk environment (i.e. delivery only store), identifying resources and benefits to support you, or extending Catastrophe Pay until the end of May, if that’s what you need. We will similarly provide Catastrophe Pay until the end of May for partners navigating childcare challenges. Everyone’s situation is different and always evolving, and we want to help you make the right decision for you.  

As we re-open stores and have work available, we will no longer be able to offer Catastrophe Pay to partners who are unwilling to work after May 3.These partners will have the option to utilize their remaining vacation or sick leave, apply for unpaid leave, or evaluate eligibility for assistance based on the CARES Act (or any state mandates). We also expect to phase out Catastrophe Pay and Service Pay in June as we return to our normal operations, pay and benefits. We will share additional details in the coming week, once we have them finalized.

I know these decisions will be welcomed by partners who are ready and excited to get back to work. Others may be open to the idea but need a little more support which is why we will invest time the first week of May for retraining and re-immersing. And there will be some partners who just aren’t ready to return to a service role. So, we must show our genuine empathy for those who need to make the personal decision to leave Starbucks. We will always be grateful for their service to our company and we will support them the best way we can as they make personal decisions to care for themselves. We know this is an unprecedented time, and we want every partner to know you have options when it comes to doing what is best for you. Whatever you choose, I want you to know that your Starbucks family stands with you, today and always. We will always have your back.

From now until the end of May, all of us – partners, store managers, field leaders and support partners – are going to have navigate some important decisions. Let’s lean on each and ask for help when we need it. We are building our future together, and my hope is that every partner feels supported and truly inspired by Our Mission as we get every store back up and running.

In closing, I want to leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Desmond Tutu: “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”Thank you for making our partners and customers feel truly seen, valued and loved, and most importantly, thank you for leading with so much HEART, offering care and comfort at a time when people need it most. This is truly what it means to inspire and nurture the human spirit. I have never felt more lifted by Our Mission as partners; I know together, we will overcome and emerge stronger than ever before.

Warm regards,

Rossann