June 4, 2012
Augusta—Maine Department of Labor officials are launching a new unemployment initiative in June aimed at keeping workers on the job when their employer experiences a temporary slowdown in business.
The program, known as WorkShare, allows workers to remain on the job with reduced hours and still collect a modified unemployment benefit that partially offsets the loss in wages.
“When employers need to have a temporary layoff or cut hours, they risk losing their best employees to other jobs,” said Maine Labor Commissioner Robert Winglass. “WorkShare helps businesses retain their workforce part-time and allows workers to collect unemployment benefits. This can temporarily make up the difference in lost hours.”
To be eligible for WorkShare, the employer needs to attest that the layoff would have impacted at least 10 percent of workers for a two-to-six-month period. The reduction in hours must be at least 10 percent—but not more than 50 percent—and affect a unit of the business that normally works on a full-time basis. WorkShare is not available for work reductions that are temporary or related to a seasonal or intermittent downturn.
To receive unemployment benefits under WorkShare, workers must be included in the affected unit of the business; have earned enough wages to meet the regular qualifications for unemployment benefits; and be able and available to work their normally scheduled hours for their employer. Partial unemployment benefits are paid in a percentage equal to the reduction in hours. Thus, someone who has lost 25 percent of their hours would receive 25 percent of their normal weekly unemployment benefit if they are eligible for the program.
“WorkShare benefits both the worker and the employer,” said Winglass. “Workers keep their work history intact and have the ability to retain their benefits and seniority on the job. Employers are able to maintain their operations on a smaller scale and gear up quickly when the economy improves while avoiding the unnecessary costs and delays associated with recruitment and training when laid-off workers take jobs elsewhere.”
The WorkShare program is a result of a 2011 federal law change that takes effect in 2012. For more information about WorkShare call (207) 621-5100 or visit www.maine.gov/labor/unemployment/workshare .