Frequently asked questions about the 20-08 directive on furloughs and general wage increases
Updated: July 31, 2020
This information is intended to help Human Resource leaders within state organizations navigate questions related to Gov. Jay Inslee’s June 17 directive. We hope this resource helps you implement the required furloughs in your workplace. This guidance applies to the state’s executive and small-cabinet agencies to attain a projected savings of $54 million. The governor strongly urges higher education employers, separately elected officials and boards and commissions to follow this guidance to swiftly mitigate the impending budget shortfall. If these organizations adopt similar measures, the state would save another estimated $91 million.
Please note: We will follow up with additional communication to answer questions and concerns raised by employees and agencies. If you have a question that you believe should be added to this list, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This will be left to agency discretion as long as it ends with the employee taking at least 8 hours of furlough in one week. Agencies should decide on the day or days an employee takes their furlough by balancing business and operational needs, and the needs and interests of the impacted employee. This is similar to the way agencies currently make decisions about pre-approved leave use. Agencies are strongly recommended to work with employees whenever possible before deciding their furlough days, but an employee must have their work hours for the week reduced between 10-50% to be eligible to participate in the SharedWork Program.
As long as the furlough hours in a week add up to eight for full time employees, employers have the discretion to decide whether to allow employees to break up their furlough day into two half-days, or even take a furlough in two-hour increments spread over four days.
While eight hours is key for the budgetary savings, an agency may decide to assign furloughs to be taken in day-long chunks and on specific days in order to support simpler, smoother claiming and reporting for benefits. The hours the employee takes as part of the furlough must also be reported using the correct leave code to maintain eligibility for the SharedWork program, to enable accurate reporting to the Department of Retirements Systems and to accurately track cost savings. See question No. 12.
Affected employees do not need to be furloughed on the same day. They can be spread out to accommodate operational needs and the interests of affected employees as long as they take eight hours of furlough during the week.
The expectation under the directive is that full-time employees reduce their weekly schedule by at least 8 hours. The decision to change an alternate schedule back to a standard five-eight schedule can be made by each employer, with input from the impacted employee(s). For employees who have an alternative schedule and want to limit their furlough time to eight hours during a week with a furlough, the simplest solution is to request a schedule change. There is no requirement under the directive to revert employees to a standard schedule, as long as all eligible employees take the eight-hour furlough within that week. If the employer changes the schedule of a represented employee to start a furlough and not because of an employee request, they must follow any notice provisions in the collective bargaining agreement. Typically, an employer-initiated temporary schedule change requires a three-day notice.
For agencies that have employees on a 9-80 schedule (typically employees work 44 hours in one week and 36 hours in another with one flex day every other week), we strongly recommend that you revert these employees back to a standard 5-8s schedule. ESD does not allow employers to report work weeks that exceed 40 hours, and ensuring that 8 hours of furlough are taken each week during a 9-80s schedule is administratively challenging. While agencies have the discretion to manage their furlough implementation, we do recommend these scheduled be reverted during the furlough weeks, especially since during those weeks all employees will be overtime eligible.
Agencies have the discretion to work with their employees currently approved for flexible and alternative schedules. See question no. 4.
Yes. During weeks when overtime exempt employees’ hours are reduced (partial week furloughs), overtime exempt employees become overtime eligible for that workweek and are paid for each hour worked. Overtime eligible employees are required to track their time through positive time reporting practices. Employers will need to decide how to ensure that time tracking for typically overtime exempt employees, and employees with flexible schedules, will occur during the reduced hour weeks.
This means that for full time positions, a typically OT exempt employee should be assigned to work no more than 32 hours within the furlough week. If they work more than 32 hours (but less than 40 hours) during the week, you must pay them at their normal hourly rate for the additional hours. If they work more than 40 hours, they are eligible for overtime at 1.5 times their normal hourly rate for any time worked past 40.
In either of these scenarios (working more than 32 or more than 40 hours) the employee and agency are out of compliance with the furlough directive and will not achieve the financial savings the furloughs are meant to produce. The objective is to save money, so employees are strongly discouraged from working overtime or additional hours beyond 32 for full time equivalent positions.
If employers are furloughing employees in solid week blocks, it is best to begin the furlough at the beginning of the week and in full week increments to avoid the necessity of treating the employee as overtime eligible during those workweeks.
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. Paid leave counts as work under the Employment Security Department’s criteria for unemployment eligibility. Leave without pay (LWOP) does not. Please note the distinction between general LWOP and voluntary furloughs taken as part of the SharedWork program.
No. The directive requires the employee to take at least one furlough day per week between June 28 and July 25. Beyond that, although combining some anticipated furlough days may be feasible from an operational perspective for an employer, the SharedWork program provides benefits only to employees that experience a 10-50% reduction in hours in a particular week. Part of the assumed cost savings of the furlough directive comes from the SharedWork program; allowing employees to combine all their furlough days may reduce the savings that employees get from the furloughs by making them ineligible for the SharedWork Program.
After July 25, agencies may consider allowing employees to combine their required furlough days (at least four, or one day per month for August, September, October and November), as long as combining the furlough days does not result in the employee being furloughed more than 50% of their scheduled hours within a work week.
Yes, after July 25. After July 25, an employer may approve splitting the furloughs into four-hour increments for full-time staff, or the pro-rated equivalent for part-time staff. A 4-hour reduction in work during a standard 40-hour week meets the 10% criteria for SharedWork Program eligibility.
Yes. You must provide the employee with normally required notice in accordance with the CBA or civil service rules for represented and non-represented employees. There are no notice requirements for civil service exempt employees. However, we recommend you notify employees within a reasonable timeframe. If you are providing a seven-day notice to your other employee groups, please offer the same consideration to your civil service exempt employees. Even civil service exempt employees must be notified before the work week when the employee is required to take the furlough. Notice letter templates are available on the OFM SHR website. See question No. 13.
Yes. OFM Labor Relations staff contacted all affected unions on June 17. MOUs have been negotiated and signed with all state employee unions. ESD has agreed to accept a signed memorandum of understanding as the union signature on the SharedWork application. OFM has provided these to ESD and the agencies.
Yes, there will be a new leave code for HRMS. For furloughs that are part of the SharedWork Program (this includes both mandated and voluntary, as long as they result in a 10-50% reduction in work hours in a given week), time and attendance processors should use leave code 9403 (LWOP Temp Layoff\ShrdWork). This code is available now in MyPortal.
An employee should code any other furlough or temporary layoff absence that is not part of the SharedWork Program in HRMS using 9396 (LWOP Temp Layoff\Agency Action). It is vital that agencies not use the SharedWork code for furloughs or other leaves that are not part of the SharedWork Program. Please Note: Code 9403 will report reduced hours to DRS; however, only using this code for furloughs under SharedWork will allow for accurate reporting to DRS, to administer any changes in retirement calculations enacted by the legislature or promulgated through agency rule making.
Each employer must apply for the SharedWork Program. State HR provided cabinet agencies with a list of all permanent employees, with the data available in HRMS that could help complete the SharedWork application. Other agencies such as higher education institutions, boards and commissions, and separately elected officials, may contact OFM for a list of their employees and associated files. After an employer’s SharedWork plan is approved, the employer continues to have the ability to add or remove employees to their approved SharedWork plan.
ESD determines if the employee is eligible, but the SharedWork Program is available to permanent employees who experience a reduction in their normal schedule of 10-50%. An employee may be eligible under the SharedWork program if they take one or two furlough days per week. Permanent project staff and seasonal employees during their season are also eligible for the SharedWork Program.
Yes. In order to remain eligible for the SharedWork Program, an employee may have their work hours reduced between 10-50%. Employers have discretion to approve or deny voluntary furlough requests, but it is important to recognize that there may be a loss of federal funds for that position if an employee’s reduction in hours does not match the 10-50% reduction required for the SharedWork Program.
The governor’s directive requires affected employees in executive branch cabinet agencies to take at least one furlough day per week between June 28 and July 25. These furloughs should not be combined or postponed. After July 25, agencies may exercise their discretion in scheduling the required furlough days. The directive requires at least one furlough day per month through the end of November. This amounts to four furlough days per eligible employee between August and November. See also question No. 8 above.
Exception criteria for how to implement the furloughs should be to very narrowly applied, to attain the required cost savings the furloughs are designed to deliver. Reduced work hours will mean reductions in services and work production. You need to communicate the awareness of this reality to employees explicitly, so they know they aren’t expected to accomplish in 32 hours what normally requires 40 hours to accomplish.
Earlier this spring, your agency should have reported any designated positions that require relief or backfill as part of their data cleaning to prepare for collective bargaining. Typically, only 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.
If an employee has worked for the state for less than 680 hours, but was previously employed elsewhere—even in another state—they may still be eligible for the CARES Act benefit. The application for unemployment benefits asks the employee about work in other states, previous federal employment and recent military service, any of which could combine with Washington wages to achieve the 680 hours.
For employees who work for employers participating in the SharedWork Program, those employees will continue to receive the same retirement benefit as though their hours had not been reduced, as long as their furlough hours are coded correctly as covered by the SharedWork program.
For additional questions about the impact of furloughs on these plans, visit the Department of Retirement Systems website or call 360-664-7000 or 800-547-6657. You can also read DRS’ furlough/retirement benefits webpage.
Employees using leave will be impacted by furloughs just as those who are working, unless they are in relief positions or meet a narrow criteria for exemption. Previously approved leave scheduled during the time an employee is furloughed should be cancelled.
Employees who use protected leave (including but not limited to EPSL or EFML), or those using protections under proclamation 20-46 regarding high-risk individuals, may not be targeted for layoff or reduced hours because of their use of these protections. However, as long as an employer applies documentable, neutral criteria to identify employees for furloughs that is not based on the employee’s use of protected leave, people on protected leave may be furloughed just like people not using protected leave. If applying 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.
There is no plan to extend fiscal closeout deadlines at this time. If the furloughs make it difficult for your agency to meet fiscal close, please contact your assigned OFM budget assistant or accounting consultant.
The CARES Act federal funding is available through July 25. The intent of the first round of furloughs starting June 28 is that SharedWork benefits for agencies and CARES Act funding for employees will both be available. The $600 available through the CARES Act is a flat dollar amount and is not adjusted in relation to other unemployment benefits.
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 (see No 46).
Yes, their 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.
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 exemption 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.
Furloughs apply regardless of fund source.
Furloughs apply regardless of fund source.
Furloughs apply regardless of fund source.
Positions that do not meet the exemption criteria are subject to furloughs.
Yes, you may provide one notice letter for all furlough days. Please include as much detail as possible for the employee to review if your agency chooses to go this route.
Yes. Permanent employees in a non-permanent appointment are eligible to participate in the SWP. Permanent project employees are also eligible to participate in the program.
The directive requires all non-relief employees take one furlough day per week between June 28th and July 25th. Agencies may have some discretion to adjust their internal furlough implementation strategy based on their budget reduction target and employee interest in voluntary furloughs, starting in August. More to come on this.
An employee must be available to work all hours scheduled by the employer. If the employee takes LWOP when they are scheduled to work, the employee is not eligible for SW benefits.
We are currently reviewing this question and will provide guidance soon. Employees seeking to access the benefit of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program should contact FedLoan and/or the Department of Education for additional information. These employees should also be cautious of volunteering for additional furloughs that cause their hours to drop below 30 hours, which is considered the threshold for full time employment under the PSLF Program.
Yes. Employees will be required to file weekly claims. Agencies should support employees by providing them with the information they need to file accurate claims. See No. 39.
No. Employees must wait for the ESD “claim week” to be complete. You will not be able to file your weekly claim until Sunday of the following week.
Employees may file their initial application for benefits after the agency’s SharedWork plan has been approved for ESD. We recommend that employees file their initial application no later than July 3 to avoid any delays in payment of benefits. ESD wants to know quickly if employee’s eServices account are still locked because of fraud. If an employee tries to apply and can’t they are being asked to contact the agency’s POC before July 3, 2020.
The governor has extended his proclamation waiving the waiting week for unemployment benefits through July 1. If the employer is approved for SharedWork Program within the week of June 21 or June 28, and the employee completes their initial application within the week that they take a furlough and files their first weekly claim the week after their first furlough (for most employees, this will be the week of July 5) they should not have to wait a week before beginning to receive benefits.
Additional guidance on this is forthcoming from State HR. Agencies should plan to inform employees what their reportable hourly rate is so that they can accurately claim benefits.
Yes. Agencies report one hourly rate, rather than an updated rate each pay period. A periodic increment (PID) will affected the gross earnings for the employee and the agency will need to provide the employee an updated hourly rate when the employee receives a PID.
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.”
The date of hire is the date an employee starts with your agency.
If your agency has multiple ESD numbers, you must file a separate SharedWork Program application for each ESD number. If your agency has questions about this, please have your designated SharedWork program point of contact reach out to ESD.
ESD will notify the employee when their account is unlocked so the employee does not have to keep checking. Employees should expect to receive our message around July 9. It will come from an esd.wa.gov address.
There is no salary maximum to receive unemployment compensation under the SharedWork program.
On-call employees are hired when the nature of their work is sporadic and does not fit a particular pattern. They do not work a normal schedule, and would only work if you called them in. If an on-call employee works a semi-regular schedule (they shouldn’t), they do not need to be furloughed. If your employees in on-call designated positions are working 30-40 hours normally, the number of hours they are being assigned to work should be reduced proportionally to their average work week. However, they likely will not be eligible for SharedWork benefits, since they are not considered permanent.
On-call employees should not be scheduled to cover work that would otherwise be delayed due to the furlough of a regular employee. This would negate the budget reduction achieved by the furlough. And in circumstances where you believe you must backfill behind a position, this likely means that the position is one that requires relief, and would therefore be exempt from the furlough – no on-call needed.
Non-permanent employees who are furloughed may be eligible for regular UI if they are furloughed. The guidance for non-perm employees if they are furloughed is to apply for regular UI since that is the best way for them to find out if they are eligible or not. If they are eligible for UI while the CARES act is still in effect, then they would also be eligible to receive the additional $600 per week.
Employees will report gross earnings for the week, based on the reportable hourly rate provided by their agency. As long as they are participating in the SW program and their hours worked, including any paid time off, are between 10% and 50% of their normal hours, they do not need to recalculate their hourly rate based on time spend in stand-by during the week. They should continue to use the reportable hourly rate provided by their agency.
An employee should not include their hours spent in stand-by status when reporting their hours worked for the week.
There is no provision in rule or contracts to protect vacation leave in this circumstance and no exceptions other than what is outline in the governor’s 20-43 proclamation. The normal exception request process continues to apply.
If the agency cancels an employee’s 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.
No. Time spent in a temporary layoff or furlough will not affect your compensation for a holiday. State HR is seeking clarification for these employees to verify what they would put for the reported paid hours on the holiday for their weekly claim.
No. Working on a paid holiday does not affect the number of hours you should report for the week. For example, if you take a furlough on July 2 but have to work on July 3, hours worked on July 3 do not subtract from the hours furloughed. However, time spent working on a holiday is typically paid as overtime. Earning overtime during the week of a furlough reduces the intended cost savings achieved by the furlough. We strongly recommend that agencies not schedule employees to work on an observed state holiday if it can be avoided.
No. Since they will not be paid for that week, they cannot be furloughed.
Employees filing for SW or other kinds of unemployment benefits cannot receive PFML benefits in the same work week due to limitations in the PFML statute. To avoid an overpayment situation, employees must disclose that they will receive unemployment benefits for the same week when filing their weekly PFML claim. They will be denied any PFML benefits for that week. Depending on the employee’s circumstances, some employees may determine that it is more appropriate to remain on PFML, rather than filing a SharedWork claim. Each of these benefits is claimed and paid week by week.
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 or National Guard may have additional steps to follow if they choose to apply for SharedWork benefits.
Possibly. If they are on active duty for more than 72 hours they must claim their active duty earnings, and when reporting their hours they must report all actual hours worked during their activation. Employees in this situation can also choose to wait and not file a weekly claim during their active duty weeks. They can resume filing claims when they return from active duty.
If an employee is in active duty status for less than 72 hours during the week of the furlough, they do not need to report any earnings from their active duty status. For more information, see RCW 50.04.320(4)(a), and WAC 192-190-090.
Non-permanent employees are those whose employment is time limited by virtue of the type of position they are in. This includes interns, whose appointments are time limited. In this instance, non-permanent does not include:
- probationary employees that will attain permanent status at the end of their probationary period
- transition review period employees that will attain permanent status in a new position
- trial service period employees that will attain permanent status in a new position
- employees in in-training positions
- cyclical seasonal employees during their “on” season or cycle
- permanent employees in any type of non-permanent appointment
- permanent project employees
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, 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. For HR professionals, see additional resources in the HR Practitioner Portal for more details, including how to pull a report that provides you with this and other important information to help you support your employees.
Yes. As long as they meet other eligibility criteria and are listed on their employer’s approved SharedWork plan, an employee can take additional voluntary furlough days and still claim SharedWork benefits. Agencies are encouraged to approve voluntary furloughs whenever possible to help achieve targeted cost savings.