Staff employed directly by Google are now outnumbered by a variety of contingent workers, contractors and temporary staff. The increasingly important role of non-traditionally employed staff was revealed by The New York Times after it obtained internal paperwork from the company.
The document indicates that Google employed 102,000 full-time staff in March 2019 but was working with 121,000 contractors and temporary staff around the world. This type of alternative arrangement for work appears to be more common, with a study from Harvard and Princeton showing a significant majority of growth in the job market between 2005 and 2015 originated with some form of freelance or temporary work. From the viewpoint of the employer, it can be a money-saving measure in terms of benefits and wages, which has the benefit of leaving the risk with the workers.
There has been recent controversy based upon the divide found in the workplace between employees and those employed independently. In the US, federal discrimination law applies only to employees so temporary staff or freelancers are not protected in the same way and the roles often performed by such workers can be more prone to harassment.
The difficulties for Google continue as some previous temporary or contract workers have come forward to explain the difference in their experience compared with the full-time staff. They talk of a workplace separated into full-time employees who have food outlets and shops that the contract staff were not allowed into.
Temporary or contract staff at Google reportedly have to wear a badge highlighting this status so that other workers are aware that Google does not directly employ them. In addition, large tech companies such as Google employ people on shorter projects or to contribute to a longer project.
These staff can only stay with the firm for two years and the staff agency will be paying for them. Some large companies will outsource entire departments so that those employees are then directly employed by the third party supplier.
Part of the reason for such a clear divide in a workplace such as Google is to avoid legal action. Microsoft employed thousands of temporary staff who were welcomed and integrated into the workplace and back in 2000 these staff sued with the argument they should have been employed full time. It cost Microsoft 97 million dollars to settle.
Following a letter condemning the treatment of temporary contractors, signed by more than 900 former Google workers in March 2019, the tech giant announced the implementation of new minimum standards. In the future, US-based employees working a minimum of 33 hours per work with Google will receive at least $15 an hour, health insurance and paid sick leave (eight days) amongst other benefits.
Even with steps such as this, there remains a significant difference between being employed and being a temporary worker or independent contractor.
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