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[Toolkit] How to use ESD’s SharedWork program to get your employees back to work

May 26, 2021 | Entertainment Reopening Guide, Hotel COVID-19 Operations Guide, Restaurant Reopening Guide, Toolkits

After a year and a half of shutdowns, Washington is open for business. Finding employees to work is now the industry’s top challenge. Even before the pandemic, there was a labor shortage.

You’ve been wondering how to get your employees back to work. One way to do that is to share your employee’s wages with the Employment Security Department.

SharedWork program

One way many businesses are enticing their employees back through the door is the SharedWork program offered through the Employment Security Department (ESD). Some businesses are even using the program as a competitive hiring advantage. If an employee is worried about going back to work one week only to get laid off the week after, knowing they are on the SharedWork program may make them more likely to go back. Check out this video for a quick overview of the program.

What is it?

SharedWork is a program offered through ESD that pays anywhere from 50 to 90% of your employees’ salaries if they are working 10 to 50% fewer hours. This is measured in hours, not in salary. For example, if an employee worked for you in November before a layoff and used to work 30 hours a week, you can hire that employee back for 15 hours a week and they can still get half of their unemployment benefits.

When you are participating in SharedWork, this employee working at 50% of their hours will get:

  • half of their salary
  • any benefits they receive from you as an employee
  • tips
  • half of their unemployment benefits.

In short, you and the state are sharing the cost of the employee.

For businesses, this program does not affect their experience rating or cost anything through Sept. 4, 2021. The only time it will is if the employee works less than 50% of their original hours—this is when they will receive a full unemployment benefit.

You can view the SharedWork payment calculation chart here.

Are you eligible?

Businesses are eligible to enroll in the SharedWork program if they enroll a minimum of two permanent employees in the plan and comply with all laws, rules and ordinances. Employees participating in the program must:

  • Be a permanent hire
  • Be eligible for regular unemployment benefits, apply for benefits and file weekly claims
  • Be able and available to work all hours offered by the SharedWork employer

What happens if I offer this to my employee and they decline to come back?

Employees receiving unemployment benefits must be able and available to work. When someone makes an offer of employment, they must accept, with a few exceptions. This is the deal they make when they apply for benefits. If they refuse, they may get caught and must pay back the money they received. Yes, there is a short backlog, but it is not long. Not only will they have to pay back the funds, but they may also be denied benefits in the future. Read about how to report a claimant for violating unemployment requirements, including failing to come to interviews, here.

You can watch this segmented video about the program here.