With the extension of a statewide stay-home order across Washington through May 6, many of us are becoming a bit apprehensive. Employers, in particular, are scrambling to figure out ways to stay afloat and keep employees. To that end, the WA Employment Security Department is touting an alternative called Shared Work
that allows companies to keep employees working reduced hours as the worker collects partial unemployment benefits.
Though it’s been in place since 1983, SharedWork isn’t widely known. This is a voluntary program for private and public employers in lieu of laying off skilled employees during periods of general economic downturn. Employers are allowed to temporarily cut their employees’ hours by 10 to 50 percent. The employees, in turn, can recoup the remaining percentage as lost wages and still keep any company-provided benefits. The program offers flexiblity in that individual employees can work full-time one week and part-time the next, depending on the employer’s needs.
Already unemployment claims within Mason County soared from 6,548 applications the week ending March 7 to 181,975 applications for week ending March 28. The U.S. unemployment rate is reported to be on track to reach 30% during 2020. SharedWork is intended to keep people working as necessary. A business must be legally registered in the state of Washington for at least six months before applying for the SharedWork program. Approvals are for a maximum of 52 weeks.
Employers must continue to pay for employees’ health insurance. If approved for SharedWork, employers can request a relief of benefit charges. Claimants must file weekly, but do not have to look for other work. They must, however, be available for all scheduled work offered by their regular employer (up to the usual weekly hours) otherwise benefits are not paid. A maximum benefits amount is established so employees who work fewer hours may run out of benefits more quickly. The claim will be processed as a regular unemployment claim whenever the employee is not eligible for SharedWork benefits.
Combining SharedWork with federal loan programs
designed to forgive payroll expenses for businesses with fewer than 500 employees may be the best mix for continuing to function in the coming weeks (or months). View full eligibility requirements here