You are here

Home » Services » HR & Finance » Small Agency Services » Small Agency HR » HR Toolkit » Supervisor Toolkit » Furlough and General Wage Increase Information 2020

Furlough and General Wage Increase Information 2020

-

Understand

Governor Jay Inslee has directed Agency Directors to help reduce the state's budget due to a severe downturn in revenue. Most state agency employees will be required to take furlough days, and some employees will not receive the general wage increase that was set to take effect in July.

This page was last updated October 20, 2020. NEW: or UPDATED: will be placed in front of a question to indicate its status since the last update.

NEW:  Due to the possible expiration of an emergency rule related to retirement and reductions, there may be impact to employees' ability to participate in Sharedwork after October 20, 2020. In response to the possible impact, agencies should postpone the November furlough no later than June 30, 2021, and recommend all employees take the October furlough hours by October 20, 2020.

Employee Actions Overview

You need to enter all furlough time in MyPortal. Ask your supervisor which leave code to use when entering furlough time. Your supervisor can enter your furlough time on your behalf if needed.

If you were working a 9/80 schedule prior to the furloughs, Payroll is changing you to a 5/8's schedule. Any future vacation you entered into MyPortal will be removed to process the change. After July 31, you will need to re-enter this leave into MyPortal.

NEW: You may request to return to a 9/8 schedule as of November 1, 2020.

  • Submit a work schedule change form to your supervisor prior to November 1, 2020.
  • Be sure to indicate the first flex day on the form.

If you are changing your work schedule for furloughs, please follow these steps for entering furlough time:

  1. Submit a schedule change form to your supervisor
  2. Remove all future leave from MyPortal immediately

Unemployment Claims Overview

Applying for Unemployment

Employment Security Division has published a FAQ specifically for furlough state employees.

You're encouraged to continue filing weekly claims*, even during weeks you work 40 hours, to keep your claim active and avoid possible delays or issues. You can file your weekly claim during the following times:

  • If filing online: 12 a.m. on Sunday through 11:59 p.m. on Saturday
  • If filing by phone using the automated system: 12 a.m. Sunday through 4 pm. Friday (unless Friday is a holiday)
  • If filing by phone with a claims agent: Monday through Friday 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. (except holidays)

*You should not file a weekly claim if:

  • You take leave without pay (LWOP) that isn't a furlough day. You aren't eligible for SharedWork benefits if you take non-furlough LWOP because you are not "able and available to work all hours."
  • You are receiving Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) benefits. You can't receive both PFML and SharedWork benefits, and filing for SharedWork benefits may interfere with your weekly PFML claim.

Answering Questions for Weekly Claims

Here is guidance on how to answer the following questions when filing a weekly unemployment claim online or by phone.

Q: Did you or will you receive paid time off, or sick, vacation, or holiday pay?

A: You will answer yes if you took paid time off, sick or vacation time.

Q: Are you getting paid for any period after you last worked, such as severance pay, pay in lieu of notice or termination pay?

A: No.

Q: Were you physically able to work and available for work each day?

A: Yes. Even if you took paid time off, you're still considered able and available to work.

Q: Did you make an active search for work this week as directed?

A: You must answer "yes" to this question as part of the SharedWork program, although you are not required to search for work.

Q: Did you work for any employer(s), whether you have been paid yet or not?

A: Yes.

Q: Did your work for your employer end, even temporarily?

A: No.

The following questions are asked only when filing by phone:

Q: If there was a holiday during the week you are claiming, were you or will you be paid for it?

A: Answer No if there is not a holiday.

Q: If you took vacation time during the week you are claiming were you or will you be paid for it?

A: Answer "no" as you will report paid vacation hours and earnings elsewhere.

Reporting hours worked and earnings on weekly claims

  1. You received an email from DES HR on July 1 that stated your hourly salary. Use this number when reporting your earnings on your weekly unemployment claim.
  2. Your total gross earnings = Hourly rate x 32
  3. Total hours for which you had earnings = 32

 Lost Wages Assistance Program Overview

The Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program is intended to help people support themselves and their families as they look for work. The Federal government has authorized FEMA to expend up to $44 billion from the Disaster Relief Fund for lost wage payments in order to ease the economic burden for those struggling with lost wages due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Updated: At this time, the final qualifying week for this program was September 5, 2020.

General Wage Increases Questions

Who will receive the 3% wage increase on July 1, 2020?

Represented and non-represented Washington general service (WGS) staff will receive their scheduled increases. Washington general service (WGS) is defined as the system of personnel administration that applies to classified employees or positions under the jurisdiction of chapter 41.06 RCW which are not exempt under RCW 41.06.070 and which do not meet the definition of manager found in RCW 41.06.022.

The Governor's furlough declaration lists categories of non-represented positions that will not receive the 3% wage increase on July 1, but there's no mention of the represented employees. Will represented employees receive the 3% wage increase on July 1?

Yes, employees who do not fall under the exclusion categories will receive the 3% wage increase.

Will agencies provide an official notice to each employee that will not receive the pay increase?

No, the announcement from the Governor's Office was considered notice.

Furlough Time Questions

UPDATED:  Can I volunteer for additional furlough hours?

You may request to take additional furlough hours. Ask your supervisor if voluntary furloughs are an option.

There may be some risk after October 20, 2020:

  • We do not know what, if any, unemployment benefits and compensation will be available after this date.
  • Any reduction in hours or compensation could affect your retirement benefits.

We recommend you research impacts with the Department of Retirement Sysstems and the Employment Security Department. Both you and your supervisor should consult with your HR Business Partner prior to making a decision.

UPDATED: If I volunteer for additional furlough hours, will I still qualify for SharedWork benefits?

Before October 20, 2020, yes, you can have your hours reduced no less than 10% and no more than 50% to participate in the SharedWork program. DES HR is working with the Office of Financial Management to understand possible impacts for employees after October 20, 2020. We will keep you posted.

If I take non-furlough leave without pay (LWOP), do I qualify for SharedWork benefits?

If you take any non-furlough LWOP, you don't qualify for partial SharedWork benefits because you aren't considered available and able to work hours offered.

UPDATED: What code do I use to enter in MyPortal for voluntary furlough hours?

Until October 20, 2020, use code 9403 LWOP Tmp Layoff/ShrdWork. We are waiting for more information regarding post October 20, 2020 impacts and instructions for voluntary reductions.

UPDATED: Will the furloughs impact my health insurance, leave accrual or retirement?

Health Insurance: Your PEBB benefits (health, dental, life and long-term disability) will continue during a temporary reduction in work hours, temporary layoff or furlough as long as you are in pay status for at least eight (8) hours before the end of the month.

Leave Accrual: No, the temporary reduction in work hours, temporary layoff or furlough will not affect your vacation or sick leave accruals. You will accrue vacation and sick leave at your normal rate.

Retirement:

Before October 20, 2020:

  • PERS 2 and 3: You must receive compensation for 90 hours in a month, in a retirement eligible position, to receive one full month of retirement service credit. You must receive compensation for 70 hours to receive a half month's service credit and if you receive compensation for less than 70 hours but more than 0 hours you will receive a quarter month's credit.
  • PERS 1: You must receive compensation for 70 hours in a month, in a retirement eligible position, to receive one full month of retirement service credit. If you receive compensation for less than 70 hours but more than 0 hours will you receive a quarter month's credit. The amount of service credit you earn per month may be impacted if you have a temporary reduction in work hours or you are on temporary layoff or furlough.

After October 20, 2020

State HR, Department of Retirement Systems and Employment Security Department are gathering information to understand possible impacts to employees.

For other questions regarding your retirement accounts, including eligibility for withdrawals, go to Department of Retirement Systems Website or call (360) 664-7000 or 800-547-6657.

Can I volunteer additional days to help others, similar to donating shared leave?

You can volunteer to take a reduction in hours up to 50%, but this will not prevent another position from having a reduction. You should take possible retirement impacts into consideration when looking at volunteering beyond 20%.

Can I combine my furlough days instead of taking one per week?

No, this is not an option. The Governor's directive and guidance from the Office of Financial Management require employees to be furloughed a total of eight (8) hours a week from June 29 - July 25, 2020.

Can we use our accrued leave or sick leave in lieu of a furlough day?

You will not be able to use leave.

Can I break up the eight (8) hours of furlough time I need to take once a month August through November?

Yes, but these eight (8) hours must be taken in the same week.

Which paychecks will reflect furlough time?

This will depend on when you take your furlough time.

Are these furlough days implemented as a pay cut, and can we coordinate at the program level where we take that time off?

Employees will be furloughed, for July, one day a week on a reduced work schedule. Each agency program will coordinate with staff to determine the furlough days and process for August - November.

Can I elect to have holiday's considered as a Furlough day?

This will not be an option. To comply with the Governor's directive and the intent for the furloughs, fill the budget gap created by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, employees will receive 8 hours of furlough leave without pay for the weeks of June 29, July 6, July 13, and July 20, 2020 and 8 hours per month from August - November 2020.

Can I use vacation pay during July if this was pre-approved?

Employees are not able to use paid leave for the 8 hours they are furloughed. You may be approved for and use paid leave for all other hours as usual.

Do I need to schedule the one day furlough per week to coincide with our pay period?

These are weekly furlough days, not connected to a pay period. If you file for unemployment you will submit a weekly claim. 

How do I enter my furlough time in MyPortal?

You will utilize code 9403 LWOP Tmp Layoff/ShrdWork for your furlough day if your agency is approved for SharedWork.

Can I work more than 32 hours in a work week?

In general, no. Any hours over 32 hours in a work week must be approved by both your supervisor and your Appointing Authority.

Are overtime exempt employees required to complete timesheets?

Yes, timesheets must be completed during each pay period you have furlough time.

If I turn in a timesheet, do I put my furlough time under "Leave Without Pay"?

Yes, please use the Leave Without Pay area when completing a timesheet.

Will the codes be different for the August through November furlough days?

As of now, the coding will remain the same.

How many hours will part-time employees be furloughed?

Part-time employees' furloughs should be proportional, based on the amount of time they are normally scheduled to work. For example, if they are scheduled to work 30 hours in a workweek, they should be furloughed at least 6 hours.

Are temporary employees subject to furloughs?

Agencies are not required to furlough non-permanent employees. Agencies may furlough non-permanent employees if operational needs require it. Non-permanent employees whose work is sporadic and does not fit a particular pattern (on-call employees) are also not required to furlough. The employer would simply not schedule the employee.

Is there a process for the exception request for specific positions to not be furloughed?

In order to achieve the projected savings and minimize the need for future cuts, any agency requests for exceptions to the furloughs should be applied extremely narrowly. See OFM SHR guidance on exception criteria and where to send exception requests. Please note, agencies will still be obligated to reduce their expenditures in alignment with directed amounts even if some of their employees fit into the exemptions above. OFM budget will provide additional guidance to agencies on these directed amounts.

What if we have positions or units funded with non-budgeted funds, transportation fund or capital budget or a separate funding source?

Furloughs apply regardless of fund source.

Is an employee subject to furlough if they are using paid military leave?

Yes. If an employee is using paid military leave, similar to other paid leave types, the leave would be canceled just for the day the furlough occurs. Employees who are in active duty status with the Reserve of National Guard may have additional steps to follow if they choose to apply for SharedWork benefits.

Unemployment Questions

How does the SharedWork Program work?

Employers are able to participate in a SharedWork Program administered by the Employment Security Department. You myst work between 50-90% of your usual weekly hours to receive SharedWork benefits. Eligible employees will receive partial unemployment benefits based on the percentage of hours worked each week.

Do I qualify for federal unemployment benefits from August 1- October 20, 2020?
If you are on approved SharedWork, but your reduced work hours are less than 10% or more than 50% you may still qualify for regular unemployment benefits during these weeks.The weekly benefit amount is calculated by using the Employment Security SharedWork payment calculation chart.

If my unemployment application is not processed and approved until after July 25 will the $600/week benefit be paid retroactively?

If the Employment Security Department approves your application to receive unemployment benefits, you will be paid based on the weekly claims you complete.

When and how can I file a weekly unemployment claim?

Once your unemployment application has been approved, you will see a link that says "You have a UI weekly claim to file" in your Employment Security Department account - see image below. You're encouraged to file a weekly claim through November, even during weeks you work 40 hours, to avoid delayed payments or having to reapply for unemployment.

You can file weekly claims during the following times:

  • If filing online: 12 a.m. on Sunday through 11:59 p.m. Saturday.
  • If filing by phone using the automated systems: 12 a.m. Sunday - 4 p.m. Friday (unless Friday is a holiday)
  • If filing by phone with a claims agent: Monday - Friday 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. (except holidays)

If you didn't apply for unemployment benefits until near the end of the week, allow for two (2) business days for your application to process before submitting your first weekly claim the following week.

Find more information and instructions for filing a weekly claim.

What if I selected the wrong reason for separation on my unemployment application?

Unless you selected that you quit or were fired from your agency, then no action is needed. Even if you put a different reason other than "Shared Work reduced hours", Employment Security Department will automatically match your name with your agencies SharedWork application.

When applying for unemployment, I got a message saying, "Please use the social security number attached to your SEAP account." What do I do?

A SEAP account is for self-employed individuals. If you get this message, this indicates that your Social Security Number has been used for a fraudulent claim. Report the fraud to Employment Security Department and send your name to your SharedWork Point of Contact. Your name will be reported to Employment Security Department so your account can be unlocked.

I got an alert in my account asking me if I want to apply for PEUC benefits. What do I do?

You may not need to apply for PEUC benefits. That is only for those who already exhausted the normal unemployment claim  maximums for their benefit year.

I put other wrong information on my unemployment application, what do I do?

Send a secure message to Employment Security Department through your Secure Access Washington (SAW) account.

When I try to log into my Secure Access Washington (SAW) account, I get an error message saying my identity cannot be verified. What do I do?

Follow the instructions on the message, including calling the phone number and uploading the requested documents.

The hourly rate I got from HR doesn't match my initial unemployment application. What do I do?

You don't need to do anything. Your claim will not be rejected. Your benefit amount will be determined based on your prior quarters. You can use the updated hourly rate for your weekly claim form.

Who do I contact if I need help filing unemployment?

Please contact the Employment Security Department if you have questions about or need help filing for unemployment.

Are employees able to use work time and resources to apply for unemployment benefits?

Yes, employees are authorized to use work time and resources to apply for unemployment.

Am I able to complete my unemployment application or claim while I am on furlough?

Yes, this is not considered work time if performed outside of your assigned schedule.

If I am locked out of my account, will I be subject to a waiting week for my claim?

No, your claim will be processed based on the eligibility start date, not on the date you submitted your application.

If I am locked out of my account, how can I file my weekly claim?

You cannot file your weekly claim until your account has been unlocked and your application completed, however, you will be able to retroactively submit weekly claims for all eligible weeks.

Is there help applying for benefits for those who have English as a second language?

The Employment Security Department claims centers provides assistance in 14 languages. Call 800-318-6022 if you need assistance in a non-English language. They will arrange translation services for you at no charge. Employment Security Department also provides Limited English Proficient (LEP) audio links, as MP3 files, in English and 14 other languages.

What if I have limited or no access to internet away from work?

You can apply by phone in addition to the online application. You may use work time and your work computer to create your account and apply for benefits.

Is Employment Security Department ready for tens of thousands of unemployment claims within a single week?

Employment Security Department has been working hard to respond to the unprecedented demand for their services. Visit their COVID-19 information page to see what they are doing to meet the demands.

Will employees with a green card be eligible for unemployment?

Please visit the unemployment page on the Employment Security Department website to review the eligibility requirements and questions regarding your individual eligibility.

Is a 'leave code' required to apply for the SharedWork program?

No, employees will not need a special code to apply for unemployment benefits. The SharedWork application your agency submits will indicate all their employees are eligible to participate under the program. Employment Security Department will determine benefit eligibility and program benefits.

Can an employee still receive unemployment benefits through the SharedWork program if they take leave without pay not related to the furloughs?

No. When an employee takes leave without pay unrelated to the furloughs, an employee is considered unavailable to work all scheduled hours with their employer. If the employee is unable to work all scheduled hours with their employer, they would not qualify for unemployment insurance benefits. Please note the distinction between general LWOP and voluntary furloughs taken as part of the SharedWork program.

Can an employee living in another state submit claims?

Yes. Your employer is in WA so you would be eligible for WA benefits.

Do employees apply for both unemployment and SharedWork each week?

Technically no. SharedWork is the program you're participating in and you would submit unemployment claims for each week through the SharedWork program so you only need to submit one claim per week.

Can I get another part-time job while I'm working reduced hours with my SharedWork employer?

Yes, you can get a second job or even a third job, if you want. However, every week you submit an unemployment claim, you must report hours and gross earnings from all your employers. If your hours total 40 hours or ore each week, you are not eligible for unemployment insurance benefits for that week.

If an employee is not eligible for SharedWork because they are a temporary employee do they have to pay for health insurance for furlough days?

If a temporary employee takes a one-day furlough, but continues to work their regular schedule for the rest of the week, nothing about benefits should change. Even for employees who take a whole month of Leave Without Pay during an extended leave of absence continue to receive heath insurance coverage so long as they were receiving it to begin with and they have at least 8 hours of compensable time in the month (or even with no paid hours at all, except that in that circumstance they have to pay their share of the monthly premium out of pocket). We don't ask employees to pay for their health insurance on a daily rate.

I am the point of contact for my agency and need to follow up with an employees claim. What information do I need to know to call Employment Security Department?

When you call Employment Security Department to talk to a SharedWork program specialist you will want to know the employees Social Security number and the confirmation number for the employee's application. 

Which salary do I provide to my employee - June 30 or July 1?

We originally thought that employees needed both June 30th and July 1st salaries. We have received additional information from Employment Security Department that the hourly rate you provide to employees will not affect their claim regardless of when their first furlough day occurs. If staff have already completed this step in the application process and used a different salary amount, it is not going to affect their unemployment. Employment Security Department bases their payment on the employees last two quarters as reported by your employer(s).

Are permanent employees in a non-permanent appointment or permanent project employees, eligible to participate in the SharedWork program?

Yes. Permanent employees in a non-permanent appointment are eligible to participate in the SharedWork Program. Permanent project employees are also eligible to participate in the program.

Will agencies need to update the reported hourly rate based on the employee receiving a periodic increment date (PID)?

Yes. Agencies report one hourly rate, rather than an updated rate each pay period. A periodic increment date (PID) will affect the gross earnings for the employee and the agency will need to provide the employee an updated hourly rate when the employee receives a periodic increment date (PID).

Will the agency be covering the cost of this unemployment payment for their employees - and how is that a cost reduction to the agency?

The CARES Act provides funding from the federal government to state unemployment agencies through December 26, 2020. It funds "an amount equal to 100 percent of the amount of [Shared Work] compensation paid under a [Shared Work] program."

Is the date of hire into the agency or into the state?

The date of hire is the date an employee starts with your agency.

I am the SharedWork Coordinator for my agency and I have specific questions regarding SharedWork and/or a specific question for one of my employees. Who do I contact?

You will want to contact Employment Security Department GP UI Shared Work Plan Section.

I am the SharedWork Coordinator for my agency and I need help creating a SecureAccess Washington (SAW) account, SEAP account, or accessing e-Services. Who do I contact?

You will want to contact the SEAP/SAW Help Desk.

Other

What is a relief employee?

Positions in work units requiring 24/7 coverage, like positions in prisons and hospitals, are considered relief positions. In essence, a relief position is a position where a replacement worker (the relief) must be brought in to cover if the incumbent employee calls in sick. Basically, the position cannot be left vacant due to statutory or regulatory staffing requirements.

Has my union been notified?

Yes, your unions have been notified and bargaining is occurring at the statewide level.

What employees are not affected?

All employee in relief (backfill) positions are excluded from the requirements that the directive outlines. Agencies by exempt additional employee from furloughs if the employees are:

  • Commissioned officers with the Washington State Patrol
  • Working under a federal work authorization where a furlough would jeopardize their eligibility to work
  • Employment Security Department employees working on unemployment claims
  • Working in direct response to the pandemic at Military Department and Department of Health, including those directly involved in seeking FEMA reimbursements
  • Providing direct protective services to children and vulnerable adults where a furlough would likely result in significant public safety concerns.

Who is not under the Governor's "cabinet"?
Separately elected, boards, commissions, and higher education institutions.

I am a new employee. Will my probationary period be affected by the furlough?

An employee's probation period will not be extended as a result of the furlough.

If layoffs are necessary, will COBRA health plans be extended for the duration of the layoff?

According to the Health Care Authority's information on COBRA, if employment ends due to a layoff, PEBB continuation coverage generally can last or a maximum of 29 months.

Could you clarify the definition of "non-represented exempt employees"?

Exempt is the term used to identify positions exempt from state civil service law. These positions do not have the same rights as classified positions. A position can be designated as exempt either by statute or by the State Human Resources at the request of the Governor or other elected official.

If I'm on an alternate schedule, will I be required to revert to a 5 day, 8 hour schedule?

If you're on a 9-80 schedule (typically work 44 hours in one week and 36 hours in another with one flex day every other week), you will revert back to a standard 5-8's schedule. Employment Security Department does not allow employers to report work weeks that exceed 40 hours.

Is there any impact to employees using their 80 hours of expanded COVID leave, or other protected leave?

Employees utilizing protect leave (including but not limited to Emergency Paid Sick Leave and Emergency Family Medical Leave), or those utilizing protections under Proclamation 20-46 regarding high-risk individuals, may not be targeted for layoff or reduced hours. If any employer applies documentable, neutral criteria in identifying employees for layoff or reduced hours not based on the employee's use of protected leave as well as those not on protected leave, this is permissible. If application of the criteria would only impact or would disproportionately impact those on protected leaves, or if there is any other doubt, agencies should seek legal advice before proceeding.

If an employee is receiving Paid Family and Medical Leave benefits, can they also receive benefits through SharedWork?

Employees filing for SharedWork or other kinds of unemployment benefits cannot receive Paid Family and Medical Leave benefits in the same work week due to limitations in the Paid Family and Medical Leave statute. To avoid an overpayment situation, employees must disclose that they will receive unemployment benefits for the same week when filing their weekly Paid Family and Medical Leave claim. They will be denied any Paid Family and Medical Leave benefits for that week. Depending on the employee's circumstances, some employees may determine that it is more appropriate to remain on Paid Family and Medical Leave, rather than filing a SharedWork claim. Each of these benefits is claimed and paid week by week.

If an employee is approaching their 240 hour vacation accrual limit, will their deadline be extended because of the furloughs?

There is no provision in rule or contracts to protect vacation leave in this circumstance and no exceptions other than what is outlined in the governor's 20-43 proclamation. The normal exception request process continues to apply.

If the agency cancels an employees leave due to furloughs and this results in an employee going over the 240 cap, the agency shall offer the employee an extension for each month the employee has to defer their leave. The agency will need to make a statement of necessity justifying the extension.

How should I calculate the reportable hourly rate for an employee?

Take the total base pay reflected in HRMS, and divide by 87. If the employee will be receiving the General Wage Increase on 7/1/20, you can multiply this number by 1.03. This gets you the hourly rate that the agency can report, and can be provided to the employee. Be aware: calculating the reportable hourly rate for an employee that is less than full time may require adjustment, since the total base pay may reflect compensation if the employee were a 100% FTE.