An internal Microsoft memo, distributed earlier today, outlines new restrictions on the company’s use of “external staff” — including a new limit on people who work on projects for Microsoft through vendors.
All contingent workers will be prevented from accessing Microsoft’s buildings and network for a period of six months after every 18-month period in which they perform work for the company, according to the memo.
Perhaps most notably, the policy includes vendors (“v-dash” workers, in Microsoft lingo), who previously were able to work on projects indefinitely, without the break that some other types of contingent workers (“a-dash” temporary workers) are required to take.
One effect is to create a clearer distinction between the company’s direct employees and its contingent workforce. The new policy comes amid word that Microsoft is planning to make cutbacks in its use of contingent staff, beyond the 18,000 layoffs of Microsoft employees announced yesterday.
GeekWire obtained the memo today from an anonymous source and independently verified the policy change. The memo says the goal of the change is to “better protect our Microsoft IP and confidential information.”
The new policy is a blow to a variety of vendor companies, including large consulting firms who provide workers to Microsoft through the vendor program.
Although the contingent workers could technically continue working on projects during the break, the lack of access to buildings and the network would make that impractical in many cases — effectively imposing a six-month break across the board for Microsoft’s contingent workforce.
Continue reading for the full text of the memo and a related FAQ from the company.
From: Microsoft GPG Communications
Date: Fri, Jul 18, 2014
Subject: Changes to Microsoft network and building access for external staff
The purpose of this mail is to introduce a new policy that will better protect our Microsoft IP and confidential information. The policy change affects US-based external staff (including Agency Temporaries, Vendors and Business Guests) and limits their access to Microsoft buildings and the Microsoft corporate network to a period of 18 months, with a required six-month break before access may be granted again. If your staff does not have Microsoft building or network access, this policy change will not apply to or impact them. The policy went into effect July 1st, 2014 and applies as follows:
Type of External Staff
Agency Temporary Worker (a-)
All other types of external Staff including Vendors and Business Guests (v- or b-)
New policy for external staff who had access prior to July 1, 2014:
An Agency Temporary Worker who was engaged prior to July 1, 2014, may continue to perform services for the duration of their original 365 days, plus an additional six months to bring them in-line with the new 18-month access policy. They will have network and building access removed for a period of at least 6 months.
External staff classified as Vendor or Business Guest who had Microsoft building or corporate network access prior to July 1, 2014, may have continued access for 18 months that is, until January 1, 2016. After 18 months, network and building access will be removed for a period of at least 6 months.
New policy for external staff who are being granted access July 1, 2014 or later :
After 18 months, network and building access will be removed for a period of at least 6 months.
New policy for former Microsoft employees who are being granted access as an external staff:
Any Microsoft employee who separated from Microsoft on or after July 1, 2014, will be required to take a minimum 6-month break from access between the day the employee separates from Microsoft and the date when the former employee may begin an assignment as an External Staff performing services for Microsoft.
While network and building access may be required to effectively complete project work, we often have effective means of working together without granting access. This policy will help our sponsors to make thoughtful decisions regarding network and building access to strengthen protection of Microsoft’s confidential communication.
We value your partnership and thank you in advance for your support over the next 18 months as you work with your sponsor(s) to help understand the Microsoft business impact of these changes and to ensure business continuity.
Please share this information with your company’s Microsoft account manager(s) and with your staff on assignment at Microsoft. If you have questions, please email our Microsoft External Staff Operations team who are available to assist you. Also note that we have asked our employees who sponsor external staff to defer any questions to our External Staff Operations team as well.
The Microsoft Global Procurement team
Access Based Assignment Length
Q: What are External staff?
A: External staff is an umbrella term for 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.
Q: What is the new policy?
A: Any external staff who has access to the Microsoft corporate network or buildings may have access only for an 18-month period. At the end of the 18 months, the external staff will have their Microsoft corporate network and building access removed for a minimum of six months before access can be requested again. The 18-month period begins on the first day of the first assignment that requires network access or building access, or the first day of a new assignment following a six-month break from access, and runs consecutively. External staff may take more than one assignment from Microsoft during the 18-month period, but their access will be removed after the 18-month date is reached. External staff without access to the Microsoft corporate network or buildings are not subject to the new policy.
Q: What happens after the 18-months?
A: The 18-month clock starts on July 1, 2014, for external staff who have access to the Microsoft corporate network or buildings at that time. In this case, the required six-month break will begin on January 1, 2016. During this six-month break, the external staff will have their Microsoft corporate network and building access removed.
Agency temporary workers (a-) who had access to the Microsoft corporate network or buildings and were active in our systems as of July 1, 2014, may continue to perform services for the duration of the original assignment length of 365 days, plus an additional six months.
Any external staff (including agency temporary worker) who starts after July 1, 2014, will be aligned to the 18-month policy.
Q: Why did Microsoft just change its policy for external staff (vendors, agency temporaries, business guests) so they are limited to an 18-month assignment with a requirement to take a 6-month break between assignments? Is this a part of cut-backs announced?
A: No. The policy applies only to external staff who have access to Microsoft buildings and networks and has been put in place to better protect Microsoft intellectual property and confidentiality.
Q: Why do some supplier employees not take breaks when others do?
A: There are some business functions and processes that have been fully outsourced (Outsourcing), such as cafeteria services, landscaping and call centers. These Outsourcing engagements are limited, require a certain set of criteria be met and must go through a rigorous approval process.
Q: Can my employees still work on Microsoft engagements if they no longer have access to network or buildings?
A: If the work does not require access to the Microsoft corporate network or buildings, your employee is not precluded from working in support of the supplier engagement with Microsoft.
Q: What happens if my employee is needed for an engagement in another country?
A: Currently, the policy only applies to the US. If your employee sits outside of the US, then he or she may do so in compliance with the Microsoft policies applicable to that country. However, if the resources sits outside of the US, but is assigned to a US company code, the policy will apply. You can direct the Microsoft sponsor, in this scenario, to work with their finance controller to help set up your resource in the cost center associated with the correct physical location.
Q: What if my employee has been on an engagement outside of the US and starts a new engagement in the US without a break in between? Can they continue with the new engagement?
A: Currently, the policy only applies to the US. If your employee is engaged outside of the US on a Microsoft project or assignment and then comes to the US for a new or similar engagement, the clock will start once he or she moves to the US and begins the new engagement. The 18 months begins on the first day of the assignment and runs consecutively until the end of 18 months. External staff may only be granted access again after a 6-month break in access.
Q: What if my employee works in increments (1 month on, 1 month off)? How is the assignment length measured?
A: From the first day of the first assignment, the worker has an 18 month period of access to the Microsoft network and buildings. During that time period, they are able to work on and off assignment as often as is dictated by the Microsoft sponsor. If the breaks in access between the assignments are less than 6 months, all the time is included in the 18 month assignment length. If a break is 6 months or longer, a new 18 month period starts upon the first day of the first assignment following that break.
Change of Employers
Q: We would like to engage a former Microsoft employee on a Microsoft project or assignment as an external staff resource. Does the external staff need to take a break before starting?
A: Yes, a break is required. The external staff may not be granted network access or building access until he or she have taken a six-month break after the last day of his or her Microsoft employment.
Q: My employee recently worked for another supplier; does he or she need to take a break between assignments?
A: As long as the external staff hasn’t worked for the full 18-month period, you can engage him or her on a new assignment or project without him or her taking a break from Microsoft. External staff may work through the 18-month period that started on his or her first assignment performing services for Microsoft (regardless of the supplier employer).