For the upcoming benefit year, Lidl US plans to offer health care coverage to all employees regardless of the number of hours they work weekly.

The hard-discount grocer said yesterday that beginning Jan. 1, 2020, about 1,200 employees working part-time will be eligible to purchase medical benefits through the company.

Related: Lidl targets East Coast for 25 new stores

Along with health coverage, part-time employees working less than 30 hours per week currently receive dental and vision insurance. The next open-enrollment period for medical, dental and vision benefits comes in November.

In the United States, Germany-based Lidl operates more than 70 stores in Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York.

“We want our team to have the peace of mind knowing they have health care coverage,” Lidl US Chairman Roman Heini said in a statement. “Giving team members working part-time at Lidl access to medical benefits is incredibly important, and it will help them succeed. As we continue to expand, we are committed to supporting all our employees so they can be at their best.”

Arlington, Va.-based Lidl US said it expects to invest up to $9 million in the first year of the extended benefits, with the investment rising as the retailer expands.

“Virginia has been home to Lidl’s U.S. Headquarters since 2015, and we applaud the company’s decision to offer medical benefits to all of its employees,” Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam stated. “Expanding access to affordable health care allows Virginians to live healthier, more productive lives.” 

In mid-May, Lidl US unveiled plans to add 25 new stores in seven East Coast states: Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia. The expansion, expected to create over 1,000 new jobs, would give the retailer more than 100 stores overall by the end of 2020. That includes 27 Best Market supermarkets in metropolitan New York acquired earlier this year.

“Lidl’s announcement today makes it clear that the company is invested in the overall health of their employees as well as their future,” Maryland Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz commented. “We are proud that Lidl chose Maryland for its regional distribution center as well as several new retail locations, and we look forward to the company’s continued growth in our state.”     

Health benefits have been a chief concern of grocery workers in collective bargaining between the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) and grocery retailers across the country, most recently in California, the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast. Prior to reaching new labor agreements, store employees had complained about proposals offering reduced medical benefits and a higher required contribution for health insurance, along with below-cost-of-living wage hikes, wage and hours reductions for certain jobs, and retirement or pension benefit cuts, among other items.

Credit: Super Market News