Mi­crosoft to re­quire con­trac­tors to give paid fam­ily leave

Soft­ware firm wants ven­dors to of­fer em­ploy­ees ben­e­fits sim­i­lar to Mi­crosoft workers’

The Niagara Falls Review - - Canada & World - LAU­REN WE­BER The Wall Street Jour­nal

Mi­crosoft Corp. will soon re­quire its sup­pli­ers and con­trac­tors to pro­vide at least 12 weeks of paid time off to new par­ents, the soft­ware gi­ant said Thurs­day.

The pol­icy ap­plies to Mi­crosoft ven­dors with more than 50 em­ploy­ees and cov­ers workers given sub­stan­tial as­sign­ments for Mi­crosoft. For ex­am­ple, a staffing agency that pro­vides in­for­ma­tion-tech­nol­ogy pro­fes­sion­als to Mi­crosoft and other clients would only have to cover em­ploy­ees as­signed to Mi­crosoft. It will im­pact thou­sands of workers around the coun­try, the com­pany said.

The paid leave ben­e­fit re­quire­ment will be capped at $1,000 a week in com­pen­sa­tion, and Mi­crosoft sup­pli­ers have 12 months to im­ple­ment the change.

Pres­sure is mount­ing for em­ploy­ers, states and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to of­fer fam­ily-leave ben­e­fits. Mi­crosoft’s new pol­icy ex­pands an ini­tia­tive the com­pany put into place in 2015, when it be­gan to re­quire that its ven­dors pro­vide at least 15 days of paid sick or va­ca­tion time an­nu­ally to workers as­signed to Mi­crosoft con­tracts.

The lat­est change an­swers some crit­i­cisms faced by large U.S. cor­po­ra­tions as they out­source more func­tions to con­tract­ing firms, staffing agen­cies and other third par­ties. By out­sourc­ing more work, firms fre­quently avoid pay­ing the gold­stan­dard wages and ben­e­fits they pro­vide to their in­ter­nal em­ploy­ees. Third-party com­pa­nies com­pete on price for valu­able con­tracts, which re­duces their in­cen­tive to pro­vide higher wages and more ben­e­fits to their own em­ploy­ees.

Dev Stahlkopf, Mi­crosoft’s gen­eral coun­sel, said that when the com­pany im­ple­mented the 2015 re­quire­ment for paid time off, she heard from sup­pli­ers that some had wanted to of­fer greater ben­e­fits to em­ploy­ees but were re­luc­tant to do so be­cause ri­vals with fewer ben­e­fits would sell their ser­vices at a lower price.

With the ben­e­fit man­date, Mi­crosoft is tak­ing a step to­ward bring­ing the ben­e­fits of peo­ple not di­rectly em­ployed by the com­pany closer in line with those of its own peo­ple. Mi­crosoft’s em­ploy­ees re­ceive 12 weeks of fully paid leave for new par­ents, with an ad­di­tional eight weeks for birth moth­ers.

Mi­crosoft was the sub­ject of the fa­mous “per­matemp” law­suit, a long-run­ning class ac­tion filed by workers who ac­cused the com­pany of us­ing long-term temp workers to do the work of em­ploy­ees while deny­ing them the ben­e­fits that em­ploy­ees re­ceived. The firm set­tled that suit in 2000 for $97 mil­lion.

Mi­crosoft’s new pol­icy also comes as more states and cities pass fam­ily-leave leg­is­la­tion that re­quires em­ploy­ers to pro­vide a min­i­mum num­ber of paid days off to care for fam­ily mem­bers, in­clud­ing a new baby.

The com­pany’s pol­icy closely mir­rors a law passed in 2017 by leg­is­la­tors in Washington state, where Mi­crosoft is based. It guar­an­tees most workers in the state get 12 weeks of paid time, also at a cap of $1,000 in com­pen­sa­tion per week. That ben­e­fits, which will be in place by 2020, will be funded through a tax on workers in the state and a smaller tax on em­ploy­ers.

While that law “will ben­e­fit the em­ploy­ees of our sup­pli­ers in Washington state, it will leave thou­sands of val­ued con­trib­u­tors out­side of Washington be­hind,” Ms. Stahlkopf said, adding that Mi­crosoft’s new pol­icy will af­fect thou­sands of workers out­side of Washington.

“We un­der­stand this may in­crease our costs, and we think that’s well worth the price,” she said. Mi­crosoft didn’t track its ad­di­tional costs af­ter the 2015 ven­dor-ben­e­fit re­quire­ment was put in place, she added.

While moves like Mi­crosoft’s re­main rare, it is not the only high-pro­file com­pany to ex­tend its in­flu­ence to its nonem­ployee work­force. In 2015, shortly af­ter Mi­crosoft made its an­nounce­ment man­dat­ing paid sick leave, Face­book cre­ated a min­i­mum wage of $15 for the em­ploy­ees of its con­trac­tors and ven­dors and re­quired those firms to pro­vide at least 15 paid days off and a $4,000 new-child ben­e­fit for par­ents who didn’t al­ready re­ceive paid parental leave.

Some ex­perts say mea­sures like Mi­crosoft’s send a valu­able mes­sage about the im­por­tance of parental ben­e­fits, but add that a fed­eral pol­icy is nec­es­sary to im­prove a mean­ing­ful ma­jor­ity of par­ents’ abil­ity to bal­ance work and care­giv­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

“That’s the only way we’re go­ing to see large mar­gins of low- and mid­dle-in­come Amer­i­cans get ac­cess to paid leave,” said Adri­enne Sch­weer, a fel­low on the Paid Fam­ily Leave Task Force at the Bi­par­ti­san Pol­icy Cen­ter, a Washington, D.C.based think tank.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.