Many employers in Connecticut have significantly reduced operations or have shut down entirely at this point. Affected employees, and even independent contractors, may now be eligible for Unemployment benefits. According to Governor Lamont, 10,000 people applied for Unemployment on March 16, 2020, alone. This level of claims activity in such a short period of time appears to be unprecedented in the state. Here’s what employers need to know.
Generally speaking, an employee can be eligible for Unemployment benefits if the employee’s compensation is reduced (including due to fewer hours because of lack of work) or eliminated, even temporarily. If you shut down, but continue paying employees their full wages, they will not be eligible for benefits.
Connecticut is working to expand eligibility for Unemployment benefits in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. The Connecticut Department of Labor is suspending the requirement that workers applying for new Unemployment benefits directly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic be actively searching for work. Governor Lamont also stated he is working to expand eligibility for Unemployment to cover independent contractors (who are not usually covered), furloughed workers, people who are not currently actively seeking work, and people whose hours have been scaled down between 10 and 60 percent.
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the Connecticut Department of Labor has indicated that it is possible the employer may not be liable for benefit charges. However, we do not yet know what the Connecticut Department of Labor will decide and whether decisions will be made on individual or collective bases.
As an alternative to layoffs, consider other options, such as remote work and job restructuring. Also consider the Connecticut Department of Labor’s SharedWork program, which allows employers to reduce the hours of fulltime employees by as much as 60 percent, while their employees. collect partial unemployment benefits to replace a portion of their lost wages.
Employers may wish to provide active assistance to employees to help them get access to benefits as quickly as possible. Employees can file for benefits at www.file.ctui.com. You can assist employees in faster claim processing by providing them your employer registration number. You should provide employees with an Unemployment Separation Package, available at http://www.ctdol.state.ct.us/JobCenterCT/UI%20Claim.htm, but employees can file without it and it may not be practical at this time to send out completed packages. Employers can also contact the Merit Rating Unit at 860-263-6705 to extend employees’ ability to receive benefits beyond a 6-week period without demonstrating they’re pursuing new employment.
The labor and employment attorneys at Berchem Moses PC are staying on top of this evolving situation so you can make the best judgments about how to handle your business needs during this time. Contact us if we can assist you in any way.