Work Share Ohio offers an option to help employers and employees adjust to difficult times
(Plain Press, June 2020) Policy Matters Ohio released information on a voluntary program, called Work Share Ohio, that says it, “allows employers to avoid layoffs and workers to receive unemployment benefits proportionate to the time they don’t work.”
Policy Matters Ohio Research Director Zach Schiller tells of his role in helping to initiate the Work Share Ohio Program. “Eight years ago, I talked with then- Representative Mike Duffey about how Ohio should enact a work-sharing bill. That’s a form of unemployment compensation (UC). Instead of laying off workers, an employer reduces work hours, and all the participating workers receive UC benefits proportionate to the time they don’t work. Rep. Duffey took up the idea and shepherded it through the General Assembly. Lawmakers passed it in the next session,” said Schiller.
Schiller sees work share as “a good thing for both employers and workers. Many are seeing how this can be a way to avoid layoffs. It can also be used as a way to bring employees back to work gradually, which could be especially useful as Ohio’s economy gets going again. But too few people know about this valuable tool, and it remains underutilized.”
Policy Matters produced a fact sheet explaining how the program works and is available at policymattersohio.org. It provides an example of how an employer with 10 employees could use the program. If the employer only has a budget to pay 60% of their workforce under the traditional system, they could layoff four workers or 40% of their staff. Under Shared Work Ohio, the employer could keep all 10 employees working three days a week for the same budgeted amount, and all ten employees could collect Unemployment Compensation for the other two days of the week. Under this system, employees “will also retain their employer-sponsored health care and other benefits,” according to the Policy Matters fact sheet.
The Policy Matters fact sheet says, “Work-sharing could be especially helpful to local governments that otherwise might have to lay off or furlough workers.” As an example, it uses a Case Study of the Cuyahoga County Public Library.
Cuyahoga County Public Library has put 557 employees on a half-time schedule. They will receive regular unemployment compensation (UC) that covers the other half of their time.
Most library employees will get UC benefits that are half of what they would have made in pay. Under the CARES Act, they will also qualify for an additional $600 a week in benefits through July. If the library had laid these people off, they would get regular UC benefits and the additional $600 a week.
The Policy Matters Ohio Fact Sheet also demonstrates how Shared Work Ohio can help “employers ramp up as the state reopens.” The fact sheet offers an example of how this could work: “Take a restaurant that has cut back from 10 workers to two, because it’s running only a carryout business. It could bring back the other eight on a half-time basis, and they would continue to receive unemployment benefits for the time they aren’t working. Over time, the employer could bring everyone back on full-time.”
The Fact Sheet offers details on which employers qualify and how to go about applying for the program:
- The program must cover at least two employees (including part time) who qualify for regular UC benefits and can’t work on a seasonal, temporary or intermittent basis.
- Employers submit plans to the Ohio Department of Job & Family Services for approval.
- Employees individually seek UC benefits after their employer’s plan is approved. They are not required to seek other jobs.
- Employers can designate different work units for different hour reductions if an across -the-board reduction would be impractical, and they can have multiple shared work plans.
- Plans can last up to 52 weeks; the employer can modify or end a plan during that time. A plan can reduce hours between 10% and 50%. Work hours for employees covered under a plan are reduced by the same amount.
- Workshare will not change how much employers pay for this year’s UC benefits, or conceivably may allow some to reduce such costs.
The Fact Sheet also supplies a link to the State of Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services where employers and employees can find more information and how to apply for the program. The link is: jfs.ohio.gov/ouio/SharedWorkOhio/.