Rochester Senator Joe Robach applauded Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s announcement that additional reform measures to strengthen the state’s Shared Work program that will help businesses avoid layoffs during short term financial difficulties. In 2012, employers using the Shared Work program saved 3,280 jobs. So far in 2013, 280 Shared Work plans have been approved saving an estimated 945 jobs.
The Shared Work program gives employers facing short term financial pressures an alternative to layoffs. Rather than lay off workers to cut costs, the program enables employers to reduce a worker’s hours and enable the worker to collect partial unemployment insurance benefits to make up for the lost wages. The program allows workers to keep their health insurance, retirement, vacation pay and other fringe benefits. The employer, in return, gets to keep the skilled and trained workers and avoids the high cost of re-hiring and re-training new employees when business picks back up.
The changes announced include:
· Increasing the number of weeks an employee can receive partial unemployment benefits – from 20 to 26
· Lowering the minimum number of employees a business must have on the payroll to qualify, from five to two
· Allowing part-time employees to be eligible for the program.
In addition, employers’ Unemployment Insurance (UI) accounts will not be charged for benefits paid to Shared Work participants and employers’ UI experience ratings will no longer be negatively affected by participating in Shared Work. These changes will save employers money in UI contributions paid. An employer pays more in UI contributions for a poorer rating.
Additional reform measures include:
· With few exceptions, (i.e. seasonal or temporary work), the federal government will be temporarily reimbursing the state for the benefits paid under this program. Through his legislation, the Governor has elected to pass that savings on to the participating New York employers.
· In most cases, retirement and fringe benefits will not be reduced.
· Shared Work employees may participate in employer sponsored training or training funded by the Workforce Investment Act.
Employers from across the state have benefited from the Shared Work job-saving program.
In the Finger Lakes region, 120 Shared Work plans were approved in 2012. A total of 2,030 workers participated, and the State Labor Department estimates that 530 jobs were saved.