Eye on Retail: Walmart to allow access to wages before pay day

The nation's largest private employer on Wednesday unveiled what it describes as financial wellness tools for its employees.

The nation’s largest private employer on Wednesday unveiled financial wellness tools for its employees created in collaboration with two Silicon Valley start-ups.

The centerpiece of Walmart’s new offering is on-demand access to earned wages, which will allow its 1.4 million-strong U.S. workforce to draw on their salary ahead of payday. Instead of waiting two weeks between paychecks, Walmart employees can now use the “Instapay” feature on an app to access a portion of wages for hours they have already worked. The goal is to help workers avoid costly payday loans and other debt traps.

Walmart’s new financial program was created in collaboration with financial technology startups Even and PayActiv. Associates will access Instapay and other tools through the Even app, which securely connects to an associate’s checking account, prepaid account or Walmart Associate Paycard, and links to Walmart’s payroll systems.

“Every American worker faces unexpected and stressful between-paychecks expenses,” said Safwan Shah, founder and CEO of PayActiv, whose financial wellness platform allows employees to get on-demand access to earned but unpaid wages. “With on-demand access to earned wages, Walmart associates will be able to save more, avoid the financial traps that reduce their take-home pay, and get a level of stability that few service sector employers provide.”

The Even app can also help Walmart employees manage their finances by pinpointing the exact amount they can safely spend before their next paycheck. Walmart will cover the entire cost of Even’s automated financial management tool for both hourly and salaried associates, and will ensure associates can use Instapay up to eight times per year for free. Should associates need to use the Instapay feature more frequently, Walmart will subsidize the additional subscription required to do so.

The financial management and Instapay features will be available to all Walmart, Sam’s Club and Walmart eCommerce associates.

“Traditional approaches to workforce well-being often focus solely on physical health, but we know from listening to our associates that financial well-being is just as important,” said Jacqui Canney, Walmart’s chief people officer. “We’re investing to give our people financial tools that help provide more stability in their lives, which we believe will empower them to be all they can be when they are at work serving our customers.”

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