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Microsoft US is to tighten temp hiring procedures, following a court ruling that so-called "permatemps" are employees in all but name and entitled to full-time benefits. The company is attempting to close the loophole, by lengthening its forced employee lay-off policy and expanding the categories of workers affected. It is to increase the "break-in-service" for US contract staff, working with the company for 12 months or more, from 31 days to 90 days. The new policy comes into force in July, 1999, according to the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers. Uncle Bill's company assures us the mandatory breaks are there to reduce its dependence on long-term assignments and to address "morale" issues. The Seattle-based company hires more than 6,000 worker from employment agencies. Nearly half the "temps" have worked at Microsoft for over a year, according to a survey by Microsoft's Contingent Staffing Group (CSG,) conducted in March. These so-called "permatemps" receive none of the share options or other perks of permanent staff. Converting several thousand permatemps to full time employees would hit the company's revenue-per-employee ratio, which could in turn affect the company's stock price. ®

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