Monday, January 28, 2013

Senator Lassa Proposes Unemployment Policy Change to Promote Work Sharing

About half the states encourage work sharing in order to reduce the number of people who are jobless. One way they can do so is by amending unemployment insurance statutes to allow employees whose hours have been reduced to collect partial unemployment benefits. Wisconsin is not one of the states that allows this, but State Senator Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point ) is trying to change that.

The policy change has been politically popular in other states, and seems to also have a broad range of support in Wisconsin. As Senator Lassa explained in a press release:
Work-share programs are a win for businesses, employees and local economies. Businesses retain skilled workers, employees retain their jobs, and communities minimize the number of layoffs during tough times. The program also allows companies to ramp up quickly when business improves, helping our economy recover more rapidly.

On January 17, Lassa presented a draft job-sharing bill to the state's Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council, which advises the Legislature and Governor on unemployment compensation issues. The council agreed to forward the proposal to the U.S. Department of Labor for review. The primary reason for that review is to ensure that Wisconsin would qualify for federal start-up funding under a law passed by Congress about a year ago that encourages states to adopt this type of work-sharing legislation.

Employer participation would be completely voluntary, but it will be an attractive option for some employers because it can enable them to keep experienced workers on the payroll. As a result, they don’t need to find and train new staff when economic conditions improve and boost the total hours available for workers.

A PBS documentary examines the success of this sort of work-sharing legislation in Rhode Island.  A thorough guide to this sort of work sharing legislation has been produced by the National Employment Law Project: Seizing the Moment: A Guide to Adopting State Work Sharing Legislation after the Layoff Prevention Act of 2012.

Jon Peacock

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