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As the coronavirus continues to spread, parents and caregivers have come to increasingly expect that school and other children’s programs may not resume until the fall, if not later. Google said it’s going to help employees juggling family and work responsibilities even further, guaranteeing up to 14 full weeks of paid leave.

Google’s new leave policies, being announced Thursday to its employees, can be taken in increments, a company spokesperson said. That means employees working half-days can take up to 28 weeks of paid leave, for example. This leave will not dip into the employee’s standard paid leave, Google added.

The goal, the spokesperson said, was to give employees flexibility so they can take care of family during the lockdowns. The new policy will only be available to the company’s more than 100,000 full-time employees. Benefits for contractors are decided by their employers, the spokeswoman said. TVCs, which stands for “temps, vendors and contractors” in Google parlance, make up at least half of Google’s workforce. 

Google’s moves are the latest among tech companies attempting to respond to the coronavirus, and the government-ordered lockdowns employees throughout the world have faced. As employees began being told to work from home in March, Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft promised to continue paying hourly workers even though the sprawling campuses they helped manage were mostly empty.

Tech companies have also used their considerable financial and manufacturing power to help create apps to help people identify if they have symptoms of the coronavirus. Tech companies have also manufactured and donated protective equipment for doctors, nurses and first responders. They’ve been called to help bolster unemployment phone systems and websites. And Apple and Google in particular are working together on contact tracing technology to help people and health officials identify when the coronavirus might spread and to whom.

In the note to employees Thursday, Google said it realizes employees are struggling with a range of issues during this crisis, and said managers will work to help as much as they can.

Working with employees

Google has historically set the tone for tech companies when it comes to benefits, helping to define the essence of Silicon Valley workplace culture. Co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin famously instituted free food and policies and other perks that other tech giants would emulate as well. 

But over the years, as Google’s workforce grew, the company has also become a poster child of employee unrest. The company has dealt with uprisings from employees over the signing of an artificial intelligence contract with the Pentagon and Google’s work in China. Most notably, 20,000 employees walked out of their offices in November 2018 to protest leadership’s handling of sexual assault allegations.

Activists within the search giant also accused Google last year of firing employees over speaking out against workplace issues. Google at the time denied those claims. 

The coronavirus pandemic has also affected the company’s workforce more broadly. The company has told its employees around the world they should work from home. On Wednesday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai told employees the company would be slowing down hiring for the rest of 2020. He said the company had hired 20,000 people in 2019, and was poised for similar growth this year. Instead, Google will “dial back” plans in areas that aren’t critical to the company’s success.

Employees so far appear to appreciate Google’s response to the coronavirus. The company spokesperson said almost 1,000 employees signed an internal letter thanking Google for helping them juggle family and work responsibilities during the crisis.

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