The decision was made “in order to better meet the needs of our business and create a more equitable and efficient scheduling model,” a spokeswoman for Whole Foods said.
From Jan. 1, 2020, onward, employees will need to work at least 30 hours to qualify for health coverage under the upscale grocer’s plan. For years, employees have only needed to work 20 hours per week to qualify.
In an industry with a reputation for low pay and scant benefits, Whole Foods’ change in policy will affect just under 2,000 people, or around 2% of its workforce. The company has around 95,000 employees.
A Whole Foods spokeswoman noted that the company will provide employees “resources to find alternative healthcare coverage options, or to explore full-time, healthcare-eligible positions,” and stressed that all employees still receive a 20% discount on in-store purchases.
Business Insider was first to report the change Thursday evening, which echoes one made by Trader Joe’s in 2013. As a response to the Affordable Care Act, Trader Joe’s told its employees they would need to work at least 30 hours per week to buy into the company health care plan, up from 18 hours per week.
Amazon.com ― which helped Bezos achieve the title of world’s richest man ― purchased Whole Foods in 2017 as it was struggling to compete with rivals in the organic foods market. Since then, the online retail giant has been able to multiply its grocery deliveries and give its Prime customers select Whole Foods discounts.
While Whole Foods did not cite the rising cost of health care as a reason to drop medical coverage for some of its employees, other companies have reckoned with the price in recent years. In June, CNBC reported that Walgreens had cut a longtime health care benefit offered to retired employees, citing “rising and unpredictable healthcare costs.”