How McDonald’s Supported Employees During the COVID-19 Pandemic

    From protective gear to financial assistance, the chain focused on employee wellbeing for much of the turbulent year.

    McDonald's employee wearing a mask.
    McDonald's
    The brand hired roughly 260,000 restaurant employees in the U.S.

    Though 2020 was a year marked by lockdowns, dining room closures, and shifting health and safety guidelines amid the COVID-19 pandemic, quick-service restaurants also spent much of the year focusing on employees. In particular, the biggest brands, such as McDonald’s, invested significant resources in worker wellbeing.

    While many businesses nationwide also laid off employees, McDonald’s expanded its ranks, hiring roughly 260,000 restaurant employees in the U.S. However, like other brands, much of McDonald’s COVID response included the rapid rollout of protective masks and gloves, as well as the installation of tools to help guests and crew members stay safe, such as partitions at ordering stations and social distancing floor stickers.

    As of July 2020, the fast-food giant also announced that it had partnered with the Mayo Clinic, which provided ongoing cleanliness and safety insights to the brand as the medical community’s understanding of the virus developed over time. Professionals from the Mayo Clinic and the McDonald’s executive team regularly met to review McDonald’s health and safety policies and procedures in light of further changes in the medical community’s understanding of the situation.

    Additionally, McDonald’s offered employees paid sick leave if they were impacted by COVID-19, as well as access to a 24/7 Blue Cross Blue Shield nurse line and emotional support counseling sessions for employees and their families. The company also continued to offer flexible work schedules in order to help employees balance new priorities amid the pandemic.

    Yet McDonald’s response wasn’t just limited to the physical safety of employees—it increased its financial support. While many of the brand’s franchisees chose to provide enhanced compensation packages for frontline employees, which included such efforts as “appreciation pay,” raises and bonuses, free meals, gift cards, and other financial resources for employees and their families, McDonald’s USA offered bonuses to every employee at corporate-owned stores and doubled incentive bonuses for qualifying managers in the first quarter of 2020.

    In 2020, the burger chain also celebrated the fifth anniversary of its Archways to Opportunity program, which has provided more than $125 million in assistance for high school education and college tuition assistance of up to $2,500 for each student. Across all of McDonald's education assistance programs, the brand has supported more than 60,000 restaurant and corporate employees. McDonald's additionally continued providing access to career advising services and opportunities to learn English as a second language.

    About the brand’s COVID-19 response, McDonald’s said to QSR in an email:

    “Crew and managers are the heart and soul of the restaurants in which they work, and their safety and well-being are top priorities that have guided all of our decision making. As soon as we recognized in February that COVID-19 was going to impact restaurants in the U.S., we implemented the swiftest and largest operational transformation in our history with safety of crew and customers top of mind. This included implementing in both company owned and franchised restaurants more than 50 enhanced operations measures including increased cleaning and sanitization, universal masking, installing protective barriers, implementing contactless operations and daily temperature and wellness checks, and adhering to social distancing for customers and crew.

    These measures enabled over 2,000 local franchisees to remain open through McDelivery, Drive Thru and take-out, and to fulfill their responsibility of providing local employment to more than 800,000 crew while serving their communities—including providing our first responders and healthcare workers over 12 million free Thank You Meals.”