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Heavenly benefits at Google

By Jay MacDonald ·
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Posted: 10 am ET

Election-year debate tends to focus on the bare minimum or safety-net levels our society considers necessary and appropriate for things like health insurance and long-term care for the poor, aging, widowed and disabled. Amid all the questions about the proper role of government, it's often assumed that corporate America isn't likely to provide workers with more than the market requires, whether you work in the mail room or a corner office.

Bucking that stereotype is Google. Employees of the Silicon Valley-based search engine giant enjoy positively kickin' benefits, no matter where they perch on its corporate ladder. What other companies out there offer six weeks' of paid maternity leave for new dads? Or 18 weeks for new moms? Or free haircuts? Hands please.

Meghan Casserly of Forbes recently stumbled upon a positively heavenly new benefit that Google quietly slipped to most of its 34,000 employees last year. Call it Google's after-life plan.

If a Google employee dies, his or her spouse or partner will receive 50 percent of the worker's salary per year for the next decade. At Google's salary levels, that should be more than enough to pay for ongoing health insurance and keep the lights on. Any children will receive $1,000 a month until they reach age 19, or 23 if they're still a full-time student.

Perhaps even more remarkable, there's no tenure requirement, meaning nearly every Google employee has an after-life plan for their family should they expire.

Now you may ask yourself, where's the catch? Granted, Google knits money out of thin air, its workforce skews very young and mobile (though arguably not with benefits like these), and writing search-engine code hardly qualifies as heavy lifting. Still, 10 years of substantial payments for the survivors? Try a search for other companies that offer that.

Chief People Officer Laszlo Bock (yes, Google even has a People Officer) had this to say about Google's reasoning behind the afterlife plan:

"Obviously there's no benefit to Google. But it's important to the company to help our families through this horrific if inevitable life event. It turns out that the reason we're doing these things for employees is not because it's important to the business, but simply because it's the right thing to do. When it comes down to it, it's better to work for a company who cares about you than a company who doesn't. And from a company standpoint, that makes it better to care than not to care."

I'm not suggesting that it's practical for every company to match Google's generosity. But in an election year filled with what's the least we should offer people, it's comforting to check in with a company that's focused on what's the best.

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