‘A win-win’: New law allows workers to propose cutting hours instead of layoffs

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A new law in New York gives workers facing layoffs the right to ask employers to trim all workers’ hours instead, and have unemployment insurance help offset the losses. 

The measure was signed under a law by Governor Kathy Hochul Saturday. It’s meant to increase awareness of the “shared work program.”

“The shared work program is set up to help employers and employees during these difficult times. It’s set up so that if there’s going to have to be layoffs at an employer’s situation, a majority of the employees can petition the employer to participate in this shared work program within 10 days of the layoff, and then the employer has seven days to decide if the employee wants to participate,” said Eugene Welch, a Litigating Partner at Tully Rinckey. 

Welch said this means everybody’s hours can be reduced, without laying people off. Then the lost wages are reimbursed by the New York state unemployment system, meaning it doesn’t come out of employer’s pockets. 

Advocates of the program say it will allow employers to keep trained, experienced workers, something that is important during the on-going pandemic and the staffing shortages being seen. 

“They still have the same trained workforce, they don’t have to lay people off and then try to bring new people back in because the other people found jobs and things like that. So it’s a win-win for both the employees and the employers who still have the train workforce, reduce their costs, and the employees get paid reimbursed by the New York state unemployment system,” Welch explained. 

Welch said this is especially beneficial for some industries where people have to be trained to do the work, especially if it’s technical.

However, some would argue the drawback is taxpayers will have to pay a little bit more for the program. However, Welch says in the long run, it will allow trained workforce to stay on the job. 

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

Rochester area Assemblyman Harry Bronson, a supporter of the law, released the following statement:

“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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