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Lowe’s joins list of companies giving employee bonuses

By Anne D’Innocenzio

AP Retail Writer

NEW YORK — Home improvement chain Lowe’s Cos. says it will hand out bonuses of as much as $1,000 for its more than 260,000 hourly employees, becoming the latest major employer to invest in its workers after Congress approved a tax cut that will help businesses.

The chain, based in Mooresville, also will sweeten benefits for maternity and parental leave as well as offer adoption assistance for the first time.

With the change, Lowe’s is now offering paid maternity and parental leave through which full-time hourly and salaried employees will receive full pay for 10 weeks maternity and two weeks parental leave.

Previously, pay for maternity leave was under the Lowe’s short-term disability plan, in which full-time salaried employees received 100 percent of pay for six weeks and full-time hourly employees received 60 percent of base pay for six weeks, according to Jackie Pardini Hartzell, a company spokeswoman.

The bonuses, which will be given out to both part-time and full-time hourly workers across all its U.S. facilities including distribution centers, will be paid in addition to Lowe’s long-standing, store-level bonus program.

Lowe’s estimates that the tax legislation will result in additional net tax expense of about $75 million in the fourth quarter.

This charge, coupled with the one-time bonus, is expected to hurt fourth-quarter earnings per share by 14 cents. The retailer will provide more details when it reports quarterly results on Feb. 28.

Lowe’s joins a list of other national companies, including Walmart, Walt Disney and Starbucks, that are embracing measures like giving out bonuses, enhancing maternity benefits and raising wages.

Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, said last month it will increase its starting wage for U.S. hourly employees to $11 and is giving bonuses. The company also said that full-time hourly U.S. employees will be able to get 10 weeks of paid maternity leave and six weeks of paid parental leave.

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon told the annual retail industry convention last month that its maternity and paternity leave struck the “strongest emotional chord” among employees.

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