Google asks all North American employees to work from home due to coronavirus

The company is also establishing a special fund to cover paid sick leave for temporary workers or vendors who are quarantined or have potential COVID-19 symptoms.
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer on

The COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak has prompted Google to advise all of its North American employees to work from home, the tech giant confirmed to ZDNet on Tuesday. The majority of Google's 100,000-plus employees work in the US. 

The goal of the policy is to reduce the density of people in Google's offices, the company said, since expert advice suggests such a move to slow down the spread of the virus. North American offices will remain open for employees whose roles require they be there.  

Additionally, Google announced Tuesday that it's promising paid sick leave to its extended workforce, which includes temporary workers and vendors, during the coronavirus crisis. Last week, Google said that these workers would be compensated for any hours on the job they lost due to reduced office schedules. 

In a blog post, Google noted that most of its extended workforce around the world has sick leave benefits, either via their direct employer or the government. In the US, however, there's no federal law mandating paid sick leave. Last year, Google began rolling out new requirements for its vendors, including the assurance that their employees receive paid sick leave. However, Google says it's still in a "transition period" in the US. 

To cover the gaps, Google is establishing a special fund to cover paid sick leave expenses for extended workers if they have potential COVID-19 symptoms or are quarantined. 

As of Tuesday, more than 118,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been recorded globally, including more than 4,000 deaths. 

Before Tuesday, Google had advised Washington state employees to work from home. As of Tuesday, there were more than 260 confirmed cases in the state. Additionally, Google had already given employees in its California and New York offices the option of working from home. Meanwhile, after a Google employee in Switzerland tested positive for coronavirus, the company expanded employee travel restrictions. 

Google also canceled the annual Google I/O developer conference and plans to hold its annual Google Cloud Next conference as a virtual event. 

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