Washington’s Emergency Unemployment Rules May Help Employers Retain Talent During COVID-19

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Many Washington employers are looking for ways to retain skilled labor until businesses reopen.  The Washington Employment Security Department’s (“ESD”) emergency rules may help during the COVID-19 crisis.  Employers who plan to rehire employees when businesses reopen may request “standby” status for laid off employees, which has been expanded under the emergency rules.

Standby status waives the job search requirements while employees collect unemployment benefits during the standby period.  Under the new rules, workers can remain on standby status for up to 12 weeks.  In addition, ESD may grant requests for standby status for more than 12 weeks if there are infections at the employer’s place of business or if the governor issues an emergency proclamation that causes the employer to close or severely curtail operations.

To qualify for standby, the employee must:

  • be a full-time employee;
  • be returning to full-time work; and
  • have a probable return-to-work date within 12 weeks.

Employers should note that ESD is overwhelmed with unprecedented numbers of applications.  Employees should be advised to expect delays.

As we previously posted here, the CARES Act expanded unemployment benefits in many states including Washington.  ESD is working on implementing these benefits and expects to update its system in the very near future.  If you have questions or need help with strategy around furloughs and layoffs, please contact us.

Key Contributors

Karin D. Jones
Christopher T. Wall
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