Extreme benefits: Google edition

Radhika Sivadi

2 min read ·


Google's incredibly generous death benefits have generated huge admiration. But what are they really for?

The war for tech talent has engendered a bit of a benefits arms race lately. You offer 20% free time? Well, we've got a month of free time! Work-life balance is a priority at your company? Well, we actually pay our employees not to work! And now this sort of perks one-upmanship may have reached its height at the company that's the natural home of the lavish benefit.

In a recent interview with Forbes, Google's Chief People Officer Laszlo Bock made public an even more astounding benefit offered by the company, eclipsing all the free haircuts, gourmet food, and other well-publicized sweeteners Google offers its staff. Behold in awe the death benefits Google provides an employee's family in the event he or she dies while working at the company. Forbes's Meghan Casserly reports:

Should a U.S. Googler pass away while under the employ of the 14-year old search giant, their surviving spouse or domestic partner will receive a check for 50% of their salary every year for the next decade. Even more surprising, a Google spokesperson confirms that there's "no tenure requirement" for this benefit, meaning most of their 34,000 Google employees qualify…. In addition to the 10-year pay package, surviving spouses will see all stocks vested immediately and any children will receive a $1,000 monthly payment from the company until they reach the age of 19 (or 23 if the child is a full-time student).

These incredibly generous benefits for survivors predictably set off a firestorm of chat online (and produced at least one sly look across the dinner table from a Googler's spouse). Tax experts weighed in on the chunk Uncle Sam might take from any such death benefits, while Business Insider confirmed that gay-friendly Google offers the exact same package to same-sex partners. But by far the most common response was slack-jawed appreciation that a company would spend so much on something that so clearly won't benefit the bottom line.

"Obviously there’s no benefit to Google,” Bock told Casserly, before explaining that it's nonetheless, “important to the company to help our families through this horrific if inevitable life event.” At least one commentator though isn't so sure there's no upside to the company aside from living up to its famous 'Don't Be Evil' slogan. Megan Garber, writing for the Atlantic, applauds the benefits as "awesome and admirable," but she's not entirely convinced they're just the result of the very rich firm's do-gooder impulses. When it comes to the war for talent, Google has brought out the big guns, she argues:

Death benefits do indeed accrue to the business. People always want to protect their families; in fact, they tend to care much more about that then they do about the freshness of the quinoa salad being served in the cafeteria. Google is leveraging that fact. It's essentially providing in-house life insurance to its employees–insurance that's contingent, of course, on those people remaining employees. Leaving Google–for Twitter, for Apple, for whatever–also means depriving your family, eventually, of your weirdly lucrative death.

What do you think of Google's impressive death benefits–generosity personified, the ultimate retention strategy, or a little bit of both?

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Radhika Sivadi