Mar 6, 2020 - Health

Tech giants promise to pay hourly workers while employees telecommute

Photo: Microsoft

Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Twitter all told Axios on Thursday night that they plan to pay their hourly workers regular wages even as they encourage many of their staff to work from home, reducing their on-site support staffing needs.

Why it matters: While many tech employees can do their jobs remotely, large companies also have support staff that do everything from cooking their meals to driving shuttles and cleaning the office. Those workers can't do their jobs remotely, and it was not initially clear how the coronavirus response would affect them.

Microsoft spoke out publicly on the issue Thursday afternoon, saying that it was important for large employers to make sure that hourly contract workers get paid, whether their services are utilized or not.

"We recognize the hardship that lost work can mean for hourly employees," Brad Smith said in a blog post. "As a result, we’ve decided that Microsoft will continue to pay all our vendor hourly service providers their regular pay during this period of reduced service needs."

Google and Twitter confirmed that they were following suit.

The big picture: The issue is becoming more pertinent as tech companies expand the number of employees and locations working remotely. Many companies that were already encouraging Seattle-area employees to work remotely in the face of the coronavirus outbreak there are extending that to the San Francisco Bay Area, now that cases are cropping up in that region.

Facebook said late Thursday that it is encouraging all its Bay Area staff to work from home starting Friday.

“Based on guidance from Santa Clara County today, we are strongly recommending that all Bay Area employees and contingent staff work from home starting tomorrow," Facebook spokesperson Anthony Harrison told Axios. "This decision is based on our desire to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19.”

  • The move applies to both full-time employees and hourly workers and Facebook says it is working with its partners to make sure the hourly workers aren't affected.
  • Thousands of workers will still need to come into Facebook's offices, the company said, including many that work on safety and security issues.
  • That said, the company hopes that fewer people in the office will help avoid the spread of disease there.
  • Facebook is also canceling all events in the Bay Area as well as recommending workers cancel travel in and out of the area.

Update: Amazon tells Axios it will also pay the approximately 10,000 hourly workers that support its Seattle-area office.

“We will continue to pay all hourly employees that support our campus in Seattle and Bellevue – from food service, to security guards to janitorial staff – during the time our employees are asked to work from home," the company said in a statement. "In addition, we will subsidize one month of rent for the local small businesses that operate inside our owned buildings to help support them during this period.”

The company has also extended its work from home recommendation to San Francisco Bay Area employees.

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