Shared work program: New NY law lets workers propose hours cut instead of layoffs

New York State

October 19, 2021 – New York City – Governor Kathy Hochul signs one of two bills amending the Public Officers Law in continuing her push for more transparency for local governments on Tuesday October 19, 2021. (Kevin P. Coughlin / Office of the Governor)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Workers facing layoffs in New York state now have a right to ask their employers instead to trim all workers’ hours and have unemployment insurance help offset the losses for everyone, under a law that Gov. Kathy Hochul signed Saturday.

The measure is meant to increase awareness of what is known as the “shared work program.”

It already exists in New York but hasn’t been very widely utilized, though there has been an uptick during the coronavirus pandemic. Newsday reported in March that nearly 2,700 employers statewide newly enrolled in the program during the pandemic’s first year.

The new legislation says workers can petition employers to launch shared work instead of laying people off or rehiring only some of the workforce after a prior layoff. The employer has to respond to the request but doesn’t have to grant it.

The law, which takes effect immediately, also prohibits retaliating against workers who ask for the arrangement.

Proponents say shared work programs help employees keep their jobs, help businesses keep people they’ve trained and make particular sense now.

“We need to make sure our recovery efforts focus on supporting workers,” Hochul, a Democrat, said in a release.

State Sen. Shelley Mayer, a Yonkers Democrat who sponsored the legislation, said in a statement that it would help New Yorkers “get back to work and build back stronger from the pandemic.”

A statement from Rochester area Assemblyman Harry Bronson:

“Shared work programs allow employers to reduce employee hours across the board to avoid layoffs. The state then makes up the loss of wages resulting from those reduced working hours through unemployment insurance assistance. Shared work programs are especially valuable during significant economic downturns, such as the crisis caused by the pandemic, because they provide a way to avoid large-scale layoffs that further exacerbate financial difficulties. I am grateful to Governor Hochul for signing my bill (A.7373) that will facilitate increased use of the shared work program as we do all we can to help families stay employed and provide for their families. This new law will encourage broader use of shared work programs by granting employees a right to petition their employer to implement a shared work program.  Shared work programs are good for employees and good for business.”

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