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Shared Work Saves 22,500 Missouri Jobs in 2010

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>>AMY SUSAN: Hi. I'm Amy Susan, Director of Communications for the Missouri Department of Labor. On this week's edition of Labor Talk, a podcast where experts discuss workplace issues that affect your life. I'm joined here with Carol Luecke, she's the Chief of Benefits section located in the Division of Employment Security, and she's here to talk about a job saving program called Shared Work. Carol, welcome to the show.

>>CAROL LUECKE: Thank you, Amy.

>>SUSAN: We're here to talk about the Shared Work program, but first I want you to share with us how long you've been with the department and what you do here.

>>LUECKE: Okay. I've been with the Division of Employment Security for over thirty-seven years.

>>SUSAN: Wow.

>>LUECKE: And the entire time I've worked with unemployment claims, so I've been helping a lot of people for a lot of years.

>>SUSAN: That is a lot of people. Probably too many to count, I'm sure.

>>LUECKE: Absolutely.

>>SUSAN: Tell us a little about what the Shared Work program is and how it helps people.

>>LUECKE: Okay. The shared work program is something that Missouri has offered to it's employers since 1987. It's gained popularity in the last few years during the downsizing
that most employees-employers had to experience. The program offers an alternative to lay offs to those employers who are facing that tough decision of how to downsize, and the option for them is rather than totally laying off employees, they can offer a reduction in hours and the shared work program will pay them unemployment benefits for the reduced hours.

>>SUSAN: What are some of the benefits for those employers participating in the program and what's the benefit for the employees who are also participating in this program?

>>LUECKE: The employer can benefit by, number one, retaining their skilled workforce. If those skilled people have been laid off, the chances are they could have gone on to another job. And then of course, the other flipside to that would be if your business picks up again, you'd have to hire new workers and then you'd have some loss time in training those new employees. Also, you could-the employer could realize some savings to in charges that were made to-against their unemployment account for those who may have been laid off on a full time basis, they would be drawing a lot more benefits. That's a lot more dollars than those who are participating in the shared work program.

>>SUSAN: Can you tell us how many employers are participating this year, in 2010? Then how many employees are affected by that program?

>>LUECKE: Sure. So far this year, and this would be through the end of August, we have had over 250 employers sign up for the Shared Work program. And that's representing over twenty-two thousand-five-hundred employees. So, the potential is there that those employees could have faced total layoff, but instead they've got a work reduction and they are still able to bring a paycheck home.

>>SUSAN: Because of this program.

>>LUECKE: Uh-huh.

>>SUSAN: That's great. How did they get the name Shared Work? Where does that come from?

>>LUECKE: Well it's -- the Shared Work is basically trying to explain that we're sharing the work among the employees rather than keeping part of your staff back fourty hours and laying off the others totally. Instead, we're sharing the available work between all employees.

>>SUSAN: Okay. And, how does it work-can you break it down from an employee's perspective?

>>LUECKE: Sure. Let's say that we have an employee who's normal work week is fourty hours a week. Let's say he's making ten dollars an hour, and so that employee under--if he had to file for total unemployment, let's say he would qualify for two-hundred dollars a week on unemployment benefits. So, his employer has joined the shared work program, and the employer is having to reduce his hours by 20%, so now this employee instead of working fourty hours a week is now working thirty-two hours. So, thirty hours a week at ten dollars an hour, he's still got a paycheck of three-hundred-twenty dollars plus the shared work program would allow him to receive a partial-unemployment benefit of forty dollars for that loss day of work. So, three-hundred-sixty dollars versus two-hundred for an unemployment check, he's definitely coming out ahead.

>>SUSAN: Tell us what kind of impact this program has on the state and the state's unemployment trust fund.

>>LUECKE: It's great for the state, as we pointed out your citizens are still receiving a paycheck so they're still able to pay their bills. And when you pay your bills, you're putting money back into the economy. Still able to pay your taxes and everything that goes with it. So, that's how it benefits the state of Missouri. The state trust fund, the individual who is receiving fourty dollars a week for unemployment benefits versus two-hundred dollars in unemployment benefits is obviously a savings for our state trust fund.

>>SUSAN: Okay. Tell us about the new legislation that passed this year and how it affects the program.

>>LUECKE: The shared work program was originally set up that it would pay twenty-six weeks of shared work benefits per plan year. The new legislation that passed earlier this year, expanded that from twenty-six weeks to fifty-two weeks. This was at the request of many employers who were participating in the Shared Work program. They were facing some very tough decisions because their workers had received all twenty-six weeks of benefits and the employers still was not to the point where they could increase their hours yet. So, the new legislation was a huge benefit for our employers.

>>SUSAN: Okay. And, last but not least, how do employers sign up or apply for this program?

>>LUECKE: To apply for the program, the employer simply need to give us a call. And the phone number to call is 573-751-WORK W-O-R-K. Our Shared Work staff will handle each case individually, explain their options, what they need to do, and then we'll send an application to the employer so that they can fill it out for-for the program.

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