Is your business taking a temporary downturn? Check out Washington’s Shared Work program.

Shared Work program – the smart alternative to layoffs

If you are facing a temporary decline in business, the Shared Work program offers you an alternative to laying off workers. Instead, you can reduce the work hours of your permanent employees, and the workers can collect partial unemployment benefits to replace a portion of their lost wages. This translates into immediate payroll savings and prevents the loss of your skilled employees. Watch the Shared Work video on YouTube to learn more!

A 2014 customer survey (PDF, 306KB) showed that the program is helping businesses stay afloat, and nearly 97 percent of participating employers would recommend Shared Work to other struggling businesses. 

Special incentive to participate in Shared Work!

Benefits paid by the federal government will not be charged to your experience rating account and, thus, will not affect your tax rate.

That’s because the U.S. Congress was so impressed at the success of Washington’s Shared Work program that it passed legislation in 2012 encouraging all states to create similar programs or to make existing programs even more accessible. As an incentive, Congress agreed to have the federal government cover most of the cost of Shared Work benefits from July 2012 through June 2015.

The federal government is currently covering 92.8 percent of the Shared Work benefit costs. That’s a pretty good deal!

Participation requirements

For businesses

  • Must be legally registered in Washington for at least six months prior to applying for the program.
  • Must be current on unemployment taxes or be current on a payment contract.
  • You must have a minimum of two permanent employees enrolled in the Shared Work plan.
  • Must be in compliance with IRS, state, county and municipal laws, rules and ordinances.
  • May reduce work hours of participating employees by at least 10 percent, but no more than 50 percent. (A 40-hour employee can be reduced by at least 4 hours, but not more than 20 hours.)

For employees of the business who are enrolled in the program

  • Hired permanent and paid hourly (corporate officers are not eligible).
  • Eligible for regular unemployment benefits.
  • Able and available to work all hours offered by the Shared Work employer.


  • Not designed to support seasonal businesses during the off season.
  • May not be used for corporate officers.

Length of plan

A Shared Work plan can last up to one year. If your request is for less than a year, it still counts as your one plan for the year. In most instances, it is best to open a plan for the full year so it will be available if you need it.

Learn more here.

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