As part of Kroger’s new Feed your Future education programme, the organisation has introduced a new education benefit to enable all full and part-time employees with at least six months of service to receive up to $3,500 (£2,463.23) a year towards continuing education and development opportunities. This could be used for school equivalency exams, professional certifications and advanced degrees.
Kroger has also implemented a new education leave that allows employees to take time off work to focus on approved studies.
In addition, Kroger has increased the employer matching in its 401(k) retirement plan to see its contributions rise from a 4% of pay match to a 5% match. The organisation has also awarded pay rises for store employees based in Cincinnati and Dayton, with base pay set at $10 (£7.04) an hour or $11 (£7.74) an hour for employees with one year of service. The pay increases are effective from 1 April 2018.
Kroger has expanded its employee discount available on its own products, increasing the discount to 10% and broadening the number of Kroger-branded products the discount can be applied to. This will now be eligible for general merchandise, home, apparel and jewellery items in addition to the existing range employees can receive a discount on.
The organisation has also provided an extra $5 million (£3.5 million) in funding to its internal hardship fund, called Helping Hands. This is designed to help employees in times of need. Last autumn, the scheme awarded $700,000 (£492,660) in financial grants to 1,100 employees for hurricane-related hardships.
The benefits changes have been implemented as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which has enabled the organisation to accelerate its investments.
Tim Massa, group vice president of human resources and labour relations, said: “At Kroger, we are thrilled to have a talented, diverse and unique workforce. We care about our [employees], and we took the time to thoughtfully consider how to live our purpose and offer meaningful, personalised benefits while helping individuals, families and communities thrive today and in the future.”
Rodney McMullen, chairman and chief executive officer at Kroger, added: “We intend to make significant investments in our [employees], to continue redefining the customer experience, and to return value to our shareholders, sharing the benefit with all of our stakeholders in a balanced way.
“I am especially excited to introduce Feed Your Future, Kroger’s new, industry-leading continuous learning and education benefit. Many of our [employees] can attest to the life-changing power of education, and I’m proud to be one of them. Feed Your Future will support both full and part-time [employees], wherever they are on their personal education journey, whether they are pursuing [general education development], [master of business administration] or professional certifications. In this way, we’re offering more than a one-time award; we’re offering an investment in our [employees’] future.
“Sharing the benefits of tax reform with our [employees] and customers will create a more sustainable and stronger business model to support Kroger and beyond. This approach is also consistent with living our purpose: to feed the human spirit.
“We care about our nearly half a million [employees’] growth and development, and we believe investing in education will support and encourage lifelong learning and reinforce our ‘come for a job, stay for a career’ opportunity culture. We believe that making education benefits available to more [employees] and at more generous levels than ever before is the best way to support their future.”