Google may push through reductions in pay for employees that sidestep a return to the same office and instead choose to work from home permanently post-pandemic.
Or so says Reuters, which refers to a Work Location Tool that Google gave to staff in June to calculate the potential wage implications of full-time remote working. This is concerning to staff, particularly those who commute long distances.
One Googler – who asked to remain anon for fear of retaliation – had travelled to the Seattle office from a nearby county in pre-pandemic times, but estimated a 10 per cent pay cut.
"It's as high of a pay cut as I got for my most recent promotion. I didn't do all that hard work to get promoted to then take a pay cut," they were quoted as saying.
Indications from Google staffers are that pay could be shaved by as much as 25 per cent for remote workers who leave the San Francisco base and move to Lake Tahoe. In other reported examples, a Googler living in Stamford, Connecticut – an hour from the New York office – would be paid 15 per cent less if they opted to work from home permanently. There is also a 5-10 per cent difference between office and home work in the Seattle and Boston areas.
The Register has asked Google to comment on its worldwide policy and it told us: "Our compensation packages have always been determined by location, and we always pay at the top of the local market based on where an employee works."
It added: "Our new Work Location Tool was developed to help employees make informed decisions about which city or state they work from and any impact on compensation if they choose to relocate or work remotely."
Joanne Frew, partner and UK head of employment within the legal advisory division at DWF Law, said in a statement to us: "With many businesses struggling it is unsurprising that they will be looking for ways to cut costs. However, implementing sweeping pay cuts for homeworkers is not without serious risk. The starting point is the employment contract. If employers wish to implement pay cuts for homeworkers this would constitute a change to terms and conditions, one employees are unlikely to agree to. Employers would need to go through a process to change terms and conditions and could expect to face serious challenges."
She added that employees would argue that home working reduces overheads for their employer, "and if productivity has not diminished a pay cut would seem arbitrary."
Google isn't on the breadline: in calendar Q2 it made an operating profit of $19.36bn, more than three times the $6.383bn it reported in the corresponding quarter a year earlier.
In May, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said he anticipated just one in five employees working from home when life returned to some semblance of normality – amid the lure of free staff meals, on-site gyms, and massage therapies. He reckoned around 60 per cent of staff had chosen to come back.
"Our campuses have been at the heart of our Google community and the majority of our employees still want to be on campus some of the time," he said. "Yet many of us would also enjoy the flexibility of working from home a couple of days a week, spending time in another city for part of the year, or even moving there permanently."
Around one fifth of the workforce would, he added, work permanently from home.
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Just weeks ago, Google told staff they can work from home until October after it postponed the scheduled return to the office from mid-September. Some offices are open and staff can choose to go in or steer clear. Before any mass return, however, staff who choose to work from the office will need to be vaccinated.
Facebook has said the same, and Microsoft will require proof of vaccination from teamsters before they can return to campus the office. ®