German grocer Lidl will offer medical benefits to all part-time US employees

Shoppers check with their groceries during the grand opening of a Lidl grocery store, June 15, 2017, in Virginia Beach, Va.

Steve Helber | AP

Family-owned German grocer Lidl will offer medical benefits for all of its 1,200 U.S. part-time employees effective January 2020, the company announced on Tuesday.

“We want our team to have the peace of mind knowing they have healthcare coverage,” said Lidl U.S. Chairman Roman Heini 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.”

Lidl, known for its affordable store-brand products, opened its first U.S. store in 2017. It now has more than 70 stores across nine East Coast states, as part of its U.S. expansion. Globally, Lidl has 10,800 stores in 32 countries.

The move comes as other U.S. retailers are either pulling back health-care coverage or negotiating it in hopes of managing one of their largest expenses.

Amazon-owned Whole Foods will be withdrawing medical benefits for as many as 1,900 of its part-time workers starting Jan. 1, 2020. Kroger has been negotiating contracts with its union representatives across the U.S., with one of the key discussion points being health care.

Walmart is tackling its largest expense after wages by using its scale to help manage it more efficiently. The discount retailer, which is the country’s largest employer, is offering a variety of new services, including a pilot venture connecting patients with local doctors. It hopes the move will cut down on its workers relying on word of mouth or social media to find a doctor.

Retailers’ moves to invest in or pull back from health care have been politicized in the lead-up to the 2020 election, in which health care has become one of the hot-button topics. Lidl, which has had its U.S. headquarters in Virginia since 2015, is run by the Schwarz Gruppe out of Germany, where there is universal health care.

In a release announcing Lidl’s new health-care coverage, the company provided statements in support of the move from Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary Dennis Davin, and the secretaries of commerce from North Carolina and Maryland, Anthony Copeland and Kelly Schulz, respectively.

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