Microsoft Contractors Face New Work Limits

Posted by Collin_O on Jul 21, 2014 11:00 PM EDT
eweek; By Pedro Hernandez
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The pitfalls of working on closed source projects for contract developers...

Days after Microsoft announced that it was kicking off a massive round of layoffs, the company has issued new policies pertaining to contract workers.

The changes will limit the time "external staff" in the United States can access Microsoft buildings and internal networks to 18 months before a mandatory six-month break kicks in. In short, contract workers must take a half-year break for each year and a half spent at Microsoft. The action is being taken to protect "Microsoft IP and confidential information," according to the company.

Microsoft describes external staff as "individuals performing services for Microsoft on a non-permanent basis. Examples include consultants, temporary contract workers, vendor workers, freelancers, independent professionals and contractors, staff augmentation and business guests." The company does not publish data on the number of contractors that it uses.

In a July 18 memo to outside staffing firms from the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant's Global Procurement Group, the company revealed how the new policies can be a boon for some contract workers and a loss for others.

The Seattle Times reported that "v-dash" workers, those contracted through vendors, "will now have to take a six-month break if their work requires access to Microsoft buildings or its corporate network." Previously, v-dash workers were permitted to work indefinitely and could assume "another v-dash position immediately after their last project ends."

A-dash workers, on the other hand, can eke out a few extra months under the new rules, but will have to wait longer to pick up contract work from Microsoft. While their stints can now stretch to 18 months from the previous one-year limit, the new six-month break period is nearly double the 100-day restriction that was previously enforced.

Although the new policy only applies to the United States, it may have implications for some contract workers abroad. In an accompanying FAQ, Microsoft explained that "if the resources sit outside of the U.S., but is assigned to a U.S. company code, the policy will apply."

The fate of some external contractors, those who can perform their jobs without setting foot at the company's facilities or logging onto its network, will remain unchanged. "External staff without access to Microsoft corporate network or buildings are not subject to the new policy," said the memo.

The move comes just days after the software and cloud services provider announced that it was eliminating 18,000 positions within the company, roughly 14 percent of its 127,000 employees. The Nokia hardware division, which Microsoft acquired for $7 billion, was particularly hard hit with the loss of 12,500 employees.

In an effort to restore efficiency at the 39-year-old tech titan, the layoffs also spell the end of the Lumia X line of Android smartphones. Instead, CEO Satya Nadella said in a statement that "select Nokia X product designs [will] become Lumia products running Windows." The company's other hardware units, namely Surface, Xbox and Perceptive Pixel, will be subject to "limited change," assured former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, who now serves as executive vice president of Microsoft's Devices Group.

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