How has COVID-19 affected the restaurant travel industry and HMSHost?
During this difficult time when the COVID-19 virus has created upheaval and uncertainty, we are faced with an unprecedented time in travel where the passenger volume has fallen by over 95%. The impact of the virus is devastating certain sectors of the economy and HMSHost has not been spared. Global travel has been the most affected business sector in the world with airlines reducing domestic and international travel drastically. During this turbulent time, it is absolutely critical that for those still traveling; we continue to ensure a safe and welcoming environment for our associates and travelers alike.
How are we managing the current environment?
We are continuing to communicate with our associates every day to ensure they are implementing social distancing, and recommended cleaning protocols and procedures. We have made it a priority to ensure our locations have adequate supplies to meet the CDC guidelines. As human beings we are all in this together and it is important that we follow these guidelines so we keep each other safe from the virus and we do not spread it to those who are the most vulnerable in our communities.
What’s happening to our associates during the COVID-19 crisis?
We have always strived to put our people first, to give them a path to leadership as an organization that values integrity and hard work so they can achieve their life goals and dreams. We are providing an additional 14 days of paid leave for any associate diagnosed with COVID-19, and are strictly enforcing a ‘feel sick stay at home policy’ for associates. We have also established a 24/7 support line staffed by physicians and nurses – a benefit offered free of charge to all associates.
But the reality of our situation is that absence income from our stores; we simply have no choice but to furlough the majority of our team members. For those salaried associates not furloughed, pay has been reduced to help fund on-going medical benefits for our furloughed associates. The actions we are taking now will give us a fighting chance to get through this crisis so that our people will have a place to come back to when travel by car and plane resumes.
What are the details of the furloughs and benefits?
Like many companies, HMSHost has made difficult decisions now to ensure our people have a place of work they can return to in the future. Our furloughed associates are on a leave of absence with continued benefits. Associates who are furloughed can still obtain unemployment benefits and are eligible for other federal & state assistance. The HMSHost Furlough Leave of Absence Program was designed as a unique program to help associates use their paid time off during the period and to continue their HMSHost Health & Welfare benefits. Every associate starts to accrue paid time off from the first day of work. Assuming they are part of the HMSHost sponsored Health & Welfare plan, when their paid time off has been exhausted, they no longer receive a paycheck, however HMSHost will cover both the associate and employer cost of Health & Welfare benefit premiums through May 31, 2020. We have also established a website as a resource for all our associates www.HMSHostAssociates.com. The Furlough program also allows us to reinstate our team members quickly once our industry begins to recover and they will not have interruptions in seniority or service time.
What does the future look like?
COVID-19 has halted travel swiftly and mercilessly and has forced us to make decisions that were previously unimaginable, but the current threat is equally unimaginable.
Please know, we can and will survive the COVID -19 crises if we continue to make smart and informed decisions. This will change our company and our society; it will cause us to be more patient, to be more caring and to recognize and celebrate the things that make us alike and not spend so much time and energy on the things that make us different.
We believe in our people and a future fueled by optimism and hope. We will see travel return, we will see an economic recovery and more importantly these difficult decisions we are making today will increase our chances of being here to welcome our people back to their work.