- Google has recommended that all employees in North America, Europe, Africa and the Middle East to work from home beginning March 12, the company confirmed to HR Dive in an email.
- The company's North American employees are advised to work from home, if roles allow, until April 10. Google's offices remain open to employees whose roles require that they come in to work. "Our goal is to reduce the density of people in offices, which expert advice suggests may slow the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the burden on the local community and health resources," Google said.
- In recent weeks, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in a statement that members of the company's extended workforce (i.e. hourly service vendor workers) would be compensated for time that they would have worked had the remote-work changes not been in place. A March 10 statement by Google director, workplace services Adrienne Crowther said the company is establishing a COVID-19 fund to enable global temporary staff and vendors to take paid sick leave if they are quarantined or have potential symptoms of the disease.
Google's decision follows similar moves by competitors and a broad array of organizations as the world responds to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. One of the latest examples is Apple: CEO Tim Cook told employees at most of the company's global offices to work from home, according to Bloomberg. Twitter similarly encouraged global employees to work from home earlier this month while suspending non-critical business travel and events.
Several companies have responded to the spread of COVID-19 by expanding leave policies, like Google. Walmart confirmed to HR Dive earlier this week that it created a detailed emergency leave policy allowing store associates to take leave if they are unable to work or uncomfortable at work, if a Walmart facility undergoes quarantine, or if they contract the virus. Starbucks will roll out "catastrophe pay" for employees for up to 14 days, regardless of whether they exhibit symptoms of COVID-19, Bloomberg reported. HR Dive sister publication Grocery Dive reported that Trader Joe's will reimburse sick workers for their time off.
The measures are generally aimed at encouraging social distancing, a strategy recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as COVID-19’s impact grows.
But advocacy groups and other organizations have called attention to the fact that not all workers can afford to take time off in response to the disease, whether they are uncomfortable coming to work, need to provide care for dependents affected by school closures or who are sick, or are sick themselves. Low-wage workers are particularly impacted: 30% of U.S. private industry workers in the lowest wage category had access to paid sick leave as of March 2019, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Google isn't the first tech company to announce update pay policies specific to the effects of the novel coronavirus. Microsoft announced March 5 that it would pay vendor hourly service employees at its Seattle-area office during the time period in which other workers at that office work from home.
Employers are not required by federal law to provide paid sick time to workers in the U.S., although there are proposals on the table to that effect. A bill announced March 6 by Congressional Democratic lawmakers would require U.S. employers to provide 14 days of additional paid sick leave to employees available immediately at the beginning of a public health emergency, including the novel coronavirus. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, blocked quick passage of said bill, however.
As employers consider whether to introduce remote-work operations to respond to COVID-19, they may want to take a few strategic precautions ahead of announcing an official policy, sources told HR Dive earlier this month.