Amazon offers unhappy workers $5,000 to quit

Aims to weed out dissatisfied staff


B4TM9Y Macro screenshot of the Amazon online shopping website (Editorial use only).. Image shot 2008. Exact date unknown.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has revealed an unusual employment practice at the firm - it pays people to quit.

In his annual letter to shareholders, Bezos outlines the offer. "Pay to Quit is pretty simple," he says. "Once a year, we offer to pay our associates to quit. The first year the offer is made, it's for $2,000. Then it goes up one thousand dollars a year until it reaches $5,000."

The offer is headlined "Please Don't Take This Offer".

"We hope they don't take the offer; we want them to stay," says Bezos. "Why do we make this offer? The goal is to encourage folks to take a moment and think about what they really want. In the long run, an employee staying somewhere they don't want to be isn't healthy for the employee or the company."

The policy was originally devised by Zappos, the online shoe and clothing retailer that Amazon took over in 2009 - although Zappos restricted it to new recruits. After a four-week training programme, and a week or two into the job, the company offered them a $2,000 bonus to quit. The company says only two percent of recruits took the offer up.

Amazon's Pay to Quit deal applies to warehouse staff - but only staff. Many workers are recruited through temping agencies, and remain temps long term.

And many Amazon workers are deeply unhappy with working conditions In the US, for example, the company is currently the subject of a lawsuit from workers complaining about lengthy and unpaid security checks.

In the UK, the company has fulfilment centres in Doncaster, Dunfermline, Gourock, Inverclyde, Hemel Hempstead, Milton Keynes, Peterborough, Rugeley, Staffordshire and Swansea Bay. It has around 6,000 permanent employees in the UK, with another 10,000 seasonal staff - who aren't eligible for Pay to Quit - taken on for the run-up to Christmas.

But staff have complained about 'slave camp' conditions, with workers walking as much as 11 miles during a shift and being expected to collect orders every 33 seconds. Hand-held devices monitor staff performance.

Amazon says it's committed to treating employees with "dignity and respect". But, it adds, "Like most companies, we have performance expectations. Productivity targets are set objectively, based on previous performance levels achieved by our workforce."