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With crowds still flocking to supermarkets in Japan amid the coronavirus pandemic and the country’s state of emergency, the operator of Life supermarkets is granting approximately 40,000 of its employees — including part-time workers — an “exceptional emergency gratitude payment,” which will cost the firm around ¥300 million in total.

Life Corp. is continuing to operate 275 supermarkets in the Kansai region and Tokyo metropolitan area. The central and some prefectural governments have asked businesses to close due to last week’s state of emergency declaration, which covers seven regions, but supermarkets, convenience stores and drugstores are exempt from these requests.

And while they are benefiting from shoppers’ changing behavior as consumers stock up on frozen and processed foods as well as basic necessities, the shift has prompted concerns of stress and overwork among Life employees.

Although the company had taken measures to prevent infections, including the installation of plastic partitions between cash registers and customers, the firm said it recognized the stresses of working amid the growing outbreak. In response, it said it was including the extra allowances in employees’ April paychecks, a company spokesperson told The Japan Times. The amount each employee receives will depend on their type of employment and number of days worked.

The unusual payout was first reported by the Asahi Shimbun daily.

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