Sentara explains decision for new $15 per hour living wage and how it will be phased in


HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — One of Virginia’s largest employers is taking steps to make sure their employees are taken care of.

Sentara and Optima Health are expanding their minimum wage for employees to $15 per hour in Virginia and North Carolina.

“We want to make the same commitment to them as they make to us,” Chief Human Resources Officer for Sentara Healthcare Becky Sawyer said.

RELATED: Two employers in Hampton Roads vow to raise minimum wage to $15 an hour

A little more than 5,700 employees in Hampton Roads will be impacted by this change, which will come in phases.

Sawyer says by January of 2022, the minimum wage will be $15 per hour.

Sawyer says pay increases actually began back in 2017, and as of the first pay period this month, employees will be bumped up to $13.50 in Hampton Roads.

“From a retention perspective, this really helps our team members be able to focus their efforts on a day-to-day basis, so they can spend more time caring for the patients, caring for the community, and feel a better sense of well being — frankly, so they can better take care of their families,” she said.

Some of the impacted positions are jobs such as admissions clerks, certified nursing assistants and housekeeping employees.

She says they really focused on making this change after looking at a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggesting what a household needed to take care of its family.

“It’s important for our team to be able to feel like they can take care of their families, and its what we’re asking them to do when they come here… to take care of our families… We want them to be able to do the same when they go home. In order for them to do that, they need to be able to meet those basic living needs,” Sawyer explained.

Sawyer says the next phase will likely be in the April to June time frame of 2020.

Sentara has more than 28,000 employees.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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