THOMASVILLE, GA. — Flowers Foods, Inc. has paid approximately $5.6 million in “appreciation bonuses” to 11,757 eligible hourly and nonexempt employees, leased labor and contract workers, the company announced April 9.

Flowers described the bonus as recognition of the heightened efforts the workers have made during the COVID-19 pandemic. The nation’s second largest baking company with 9,700 employees, Flowers specifically cited the “non-stop” operations at its 46 baking plants in connection with the bonuses, $500 for full-time workers and $250 for part-time workers.

The bonuses are in addition to Flowers’ annual bonus program and any overtime pay earned by the employees.

Flowers also said it has implemented emergency COVID-19 leave and short-term disability policies.

“I could not be prouder of our team and this special bonus recognizes all those who are literally on the front line — in baking, engineering, and shipping, those who handle sanitation and distribution, and those who provide other vital support,” said A. Ryals McMullian, president and chief executive officer. “We take our responsibility to help feed America to heart, and Flowers team members are showing that every day with passion and courage. On behalf of our company and the board, I thank them for their hard work and commitment, especially during this time of uncertainty.”

Flowers also described several “proactive steps” the company said it has taken to help keep its employees and independent distributors safe:

•         “Enhancing daily sanitation and cleaning of commonly used areas and frequently touched surfaces in bakeries, warehouses, business offices and resale stores;

•         “Restricted admittance of non-essential, non-business-critical visitors to bakeries, warehouses, and offices;

•         “Daily wellness screening of team members at all bakeries and required self-screening and reporting at other locations;

•         “Suspension of all non-essential business travel and meeting attendance;

•         “Implementation of remote work for business office team members.”

Mr. McMullian thanked the driver salespeople who operate as independent contractors for the steps they have taken to “enhance the wellness and safety practices of their businesses.”

“This is an unprecedented time during which we’ve experienced a significant surge in food demand,” he said. “We appreciate our distributor partners helping us keep the market supplied with fresh bakery products.”

The bonuses were announced just two days after Bimbo Bakeries USA, the largest baking company in the United States, announced two workers had tested positive for COVID-19 at a plant operated by the company in Pennsylvania.

“Our supply chain is strong, and we have a number of contingency plans in place should they be necessary,” Mr. McMullian said. “We are confident we will continue providing our customers and consumers with the bakery foods they need as we all manage through the pandemic.”