On June 9th, the Washington Employment Security Department (ESD) announced that job search requirements will be reinstated for all unemployment insurance claimants effective July 4th. Reinstatement of the requirement will ensure that workers collecting unemployment insurance are actively seeking work while collecting benefits. The requirement was eased this past year in response to closures and curtailments related to COVID-19.
The Washington Retail Association has been encouraging reinstatement of job search requirements as we move towards the June 30th reopening of all businesses. We have urged ESD to move quickly on reinstatement to help ease the challenges employers are facing today to prepare for the June 30th reopening.
ESD indicated they will be posting additional information on their website this week and initiating an aggressive communications effort to alert unemployed workers, employers, and Work Source locations of the change in the requirements. One challenge facing ESD is the need to train their workforce on administering job search requirements.
The requirement that individuals receiving unemployment benefits must be “able and available for suitable work” will not change. See ESDWAGOV – Refusal to work for detailed information for both employers and workers. Those requirements include a handful of “good cause” reasons that a worker can continue to collect federal unemployment benefits and turn down suitable work. Those reasons include:
- Being at higher risk for severe COVID-19 related illness
- Living in a household with a person at high risk.
- Providing direct care for a high-risk person.
- Being asked to work at a worksite that does not follow guidelines published by the U.S. Department of Labor or Washington’s Department of Labor and Industries, or
- Care for a child who is unable to attend school or daycare because it has been closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Claimants cannot turn down suitable work because they will make more on unemployment, they do not want to work, or are simply nervous about returning to work.