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New column from Rep. Tony Burkley
Wednesday, May 08, 2013 6:46 PM

Shared Work Program Provides Alternatives to Traditional Layoffs

Legislation that passed out of the Ohio House in April helps businesses and employees manage layoffs in a way that softens the blow for everyone involved. Rather than having to face being let go, under what is called “SharedWork Ohio,” a worker can remain employed and simply have some hours cut back.

The workers whose hours are cut continue to earn normal pay for regular hours, but they can collect unemployment for the hours they no longer work.

Consider the difference. Someone who is laid off loses that source of income and has to look for another job. But under a shared work system, that individual can continue to learn the skills of the job and earn a paycheck. Because the unemployment benefits are only a small part of the equation under this program, it also puts less strain on Ohio’s unemployment compensation system.

SharedWork Ohio is not an attempt to somehow defeat the laws of economics. What the program does is simply provide other avenues for making decisions during difficult times. The hope is that these other avenues will help businesses weather the storm of tough economic conditions without having to resort to mass layoffs.

As with many pieces of legislation, it is important that there be proper oversight so that the system is not abused. Employers who wish to participate in the program must submit a plan to the director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. The plan must be proposed in lieu of layoffs and cannot be greater than the cost of a traditional layoff. In other words, employers cannot take advantage of the SharedWork Ohio program as a way to make more money.

But it does give businesses the opportunity to take a more moderate stance. Business owners have to make difficult decisions in order to remain competitive, but SharedWork Ohio allows those employers to take a more moderate approach when making these choices.

Twenty-five other states have already adopted shared work policies to help them deal with unemployment concerns. By becoming the 26th, I think Ohio is providing extra stability to a situation that can sometimes be very painful for families.

Rep. Burkley may be reached by calling (614) 644-5091, e-mailing or writing to State Representative Tony Burkley, 77 South High Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215.