- Google will require that employers of its U.S. vendor and temporary workers provide benefits, including a $15 minimum wage, healthcare benefits, family leave and tuition reimbursement, the company confirmed in an email to HR Dive.
- The announcement comes after months of protest from Google Walkout For Real Change, a group of the tech company's employees, that called for improved benefits and other concessions for Google's temporary workers, vendors and contract staff specifically. Google said the list of required healthcare benefits will include hospitalization, preventative and wellness services, laboratory and emergency services, prescription drugs, mental health services, labor and delivery, newborn and pediatric services, oral and vision care, rehabilitative and habilitative care and counseling.
- Employers of vendor and temporary workers must also provide: a minimum of eight days sick leave; 12 weeks of parental leave for birth parents, non-birth parents and adoptive parents; and $5,000 per year in tuition reimbursement to be put toward new skills or taking courses. For those operating in locations with a minimum wage higher than $15 an hour, Google said it would require that vendors meet the higher of the two requirements.
It's unknown if other companies in the tech industry — or in the U.S. at large — will follow Google's lead in requiring higher compensation for contingent workers. The practice of employing vendor, contract and temporary staff for a variety of positions has been criticized by activists as a way to avoid paying the higher prices associated with full-time employees, and previous reports indicate Google is particularly reliant on contingent workers to complete critical projects, with one report estimating such workers compromise 49.45% of its total workforce.
Google, of course, isn't the only large company that relies on contingent workers, various studies have shown. Observers believe the use of such workers has evolved at a rate faster than regulators and even some HR departments have been able to adjust to. Some employers have argued that misclassification concerns have discouraged them from offering benefits to such groups of workers, including gig workers.
The announcement is a victory for the Google Walkout group. A statement from the group Tuesday acknowledged the company's announcement, calling the changes "significant" and praising the work of employees who organized. "It proves that when we overcome what divides us, even a company as big as Google can be moved," the group said. "However, even though these changes are an important step forward to acknowledging some of the needs of TVCs in general, there's still a long way to go."
Google Walkout originally formed in 2018 to organize a day of walkouts in response to the company's policies with respects to sexual harassment and assault. That movement added other related issues, including Google's use of mandatory arbitration in employment contracts. The company eventually moved to nix mandatory arbitration for the company's U.S. and international employees, though this news was criticized by another group of Google Walkout employees for perceived shortcomings.
The pressure for Google to respond to these issues hasn't just come from employees; more than one shareholder has sued the company over its handling of sexual harassment cases involving Google executives. This is part of a broader trend of corporate investors placing more pressure on employers to confront social issues, including the concerns raised about workplace misconduct by the #MeToo movement, David W. Garland, member of the firm at Epstein Becker Green, previously wrote in an opinion piece for HR Dive. The tech industry particularly struggles with employee perceptions about its policies in this area; research from anonymous polling platform Blind showed one-third of tech workers think their employers offer generous severance packages to employees accused of sexual misconduct.