With many companies, especially in the hospitality and tourism industries, facing layoffs due to the coronavirus, many may wonder what help is available for displaced workers.
Department of Employment and Manpower communications officials Heather Biance and Dorothy Weaver spoke on Monday about who is eligible for UI benefits and various resources the agency posted online as useful guides.
To reduce the volume of appeals of claims associated with COVID-19 and also speed up the process of verifying unemployment benefits, the ministry is encouraging employers to file claims on behalf of laid-off workers.
This online process is called the âEmployer-Filed Complaintsâ process and allows the employer to bulk upload files rather than individual entries for all affected employees. It is an option offered by the state agency for years to employers in situations such as layoffs and short-term closings and when employee hours are severely curtailed.
There are many variables that affect UI eligibility, Biance and Weaver said, but there are a few rules of thumb.
– If an employer temporarily closes and fires its staff due to the coronavirus, the dismissed employees who do not receive a salary are eligible for unemployment insurance;
– If an employer remains open but fires staff due to loss of business caused by COVID-19, dismissed employees who do not receive a salary are eligible;
– Conversely, however, if the affected employee (s) still receive a salary (salary, accumulated paid leave, etc.), they are not eligible for that particular week.
However, there are various other scenarios that can become complex, given the extenuating circumstances, especially when the affected employee is still working and hours are only reduced, officials said.
That’s why Biance and Weaver said DEW encourages people with questions to apply online.
âEligibility has so many variables,â Weaver said, âit’s very hard to say, ‘If that, then you’re eligible. If so, then you are not. That’s why we encourage people, if they have a question, or aren’t sure, to apply. Then, if they are not eligible, the online system will tell them why.
In recent years, the unemployment application process has become 100% online and available 24/7.
“If there is any confusion or if they need clarification,” Biance said, “our message to them is to apply, then our team will look at their specific scenario and let them know.”
“BUT, THE JOBS ARE THERE, UNEMPLOYMENT IS NOT JUST AN OPTION”
The agency is also trying to get the word out to affected employees about other areas of employment where business has intensified in the wake of the coronavirus.
Many of these companies, including grocery stores, Walmart, Sam’s Club, Amazon and others, are desperate for additional workers right now, Weaver said.
It could be an alternative to unemployment for many, she said, who could also pay higher wages than weekly unemployment benefits.
âThe job opportunities are there,â Weaver said. âPeople don’t have to sit at home and collect UI and feel panicked and scared. They can actually find other work in the meantime, which could earn them more than the UI benefits they would get and have work in between. . “
She also noted that the construction industry continues to do well and is struggling to hire workers.
Weaver added that these jobs also allow people to maintain “social distancing,” where they don’t need to be too close to others.