As part of the fallout from the current coronavirus pandemic and subsequent ballooning jobless claims, Governor Wolf signed into law new requirements for employers to navigate when considering employee separations. Act 9 of 2020, enacted March 27, 2020, added Section 206.1 to the Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Act, which now requires all employers to notify all separating employees of certain information regardless of whether the employee was terminated, furloughed, or discontinued employment voluntarily.
Under Section 206.1, employers must notify separating employees in Pennsylvania of:
- Availability of unemployment compensation benefits to workers who are unemployed and who meet the requirements of Act 9;
- Ability of an employee to file an unemployment compensation claim in the first week that employment stops or work hours are reduced;
- Availability of assistance or information about an unemployment compensation claim on the Department of Labor’s publicly accessible Internet website or by calling a toll-free number that the employer shall provide; and
- That the employee will need certain information in order to file a claim, including:
- the employee’s full legal name;
- the employee’s Social Security Number; and
- if not a citizen or resident of the United States, authorization to work in the United States.
In an attempt to help employers comply with these new obligations, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry released Form UC-1609 for employers to complete and provide to employees at the time of separation.
Nonetheless, simply providing a completed UC-1609 does not meet all of the employer’s obligations under Act 9 of 2020 as the law requires all of the four above requirements to be met, some of which are not addressed in the Form UC-1609. As a result, employers should consider providing the following information along with the completed Form UC-1609 to Pennsylvania employees upon separation (with Act 9 requiring items two through four below):
- The Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Filing Materials Checklist.
- Unemployment compensation benefits may be available to the separated employee if he or she is unemployed and meets the requirements of Act of 9 of Pennyslvania’s Unemployment Compensation Law, and you may file for unemployment compensation benefits immediately as the waiting week is currently suspended.
- Assistance and information are available about unemployment compensation claims on the Department of Labor’s publicly accessible Internet website https://www.uc.pa.gov or by calling the toll-free numbers 888-313-7284 or 888-334-4046 (TTY).
- Separated employees will need their full legal name, social security number and, if not a United States citizen, documentation of authorization to work in the United States, before filing for unemployment compensation.
Finally, in addition to employers’ new notification requirements, Act 9 of 2020 provides for a variety of waivers and forms of relief to both employees and employers. By way of example, it waives the one-week waiting period for claimants during the COVID-19 disaster emergency. Additionally, it provides relief from charges to employers for claims related to the COVID-19 outbreak or efforts of public officials to contain and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Unlike the notification requirements, however, these changes will expire on January 1, 2021, which means that your notifications will need to be updated at that time. After January 1, 2021, the waiver of the one-week waiting period will no longer be applicable.