To prevent layoffs and allow businesses to spring back from economic downturns, the Connecticut Department of Labor’s Shared Work program allows workers to be kept on board part-time while the state pays them partial unemployment benefits. Talent is retained until business improves, saving the business recruitment and training costs as well as the systemic challenges of on-boarding a new team. Workers also benefit, receiving a higher income than they would with unemployment benefits alone and exemption from unemployment work-search requirements.
What are the eligibility requirements for the program?
The Shared Work program can be an appealing alternative to layoffs for businesses facing temporary downturns. In order for an organization to qualify for Shared Work:
• Workforce reductions must be planned for units of two or more employees.
• The employees within the unit must be full- or part-time employees, not seasonal workers, and have worked for the company for at least 13 weeks.
• Employees’ “fringe benefits,” including health insurance, retirement benefits, paid vacation and holidays, and sick leave, must be kept intact, and not eliminated or reduced.
• Planned reductions in hours worked must be between 10 – 60% per employee.
The Shared Work program is not just for businesses that are struggling overall. The Department defines “unit” loosely to include a plant, department, shift, or other definable group containing two or more employees. In larger businesses, this means that even if one part of your business is thriving, Shared Work may be a good option for particular “units” that are struggling due to economic downturn.
Applying For the Program
The Shared Work application is available through the Department of Labor’s website, and is relatively straightforward. The Department requests basic information about Affected Unit to which the plan would apply, a checklist to determine program eligibility, and specific information about the employees within the unit. The application will request particulars about the proposed plan, including start and end dates, for a plan duration of up to 26 weeks. In addition, if your employees are covered by a collective bargaining unit or union, the unit’s agent or agents will need to sign off on the application before it can be submitted.
Once the application is completed, it will be reviewed by the Labor Commissioner for compliance with the program requirements. The proposed plan will be reviewed within thirty days, and the Commissioner will issue a decision. The Commissioner’s decision is final and rejections cannot be appealed. However, if the plan is rejected, the Commissioner will state the reason for the denial, and the business can submit a revised plan.
Implementing a Shared Work Program
If the application is granted, compliance with the plan is important – the Commissioner can revoke the plan after approval for “good cause,” and revocation decisions are final. Once the plan is in place, any modifications or deviations must be approved by the Department before being implemented. Additional employees may be added to the plan, or the plan may be otherwise modified upon request, if the Commissioner finds that the requested modification is consistent with the purpose of the original plan. In addition, an application may be made for the initial program to be extended by up to 26 additional weeks.
For more information about Shared Work, and to apply, the Department of Labor’s Employer Website includes a comprehensive guide to the program and its regulations.