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Shared-Work Program – an alternative to laying off workers

If you are facing a temporary decline in business, the Shared-Work Program offers you an alternative to laying off workers. Instead, you can reduce the work hours of your permanent employees, and the workers can collect partial unemployment benefits to replace a portion of their lost wages. This translates into immediate payroll savings and prevents the loss of your skilled employees.

A 2013 customer survey (PDF, 25KB) showed that the program is helping businesses stay afloat, and nearly 98 percent of participating employers would recommend Shared Work to other struggling businesses.

Special incentive to participate in Shared Work!

Benefits paid by the federal government will not be charged to your experience-rating account and, thus, will not affect your tax rate.

That's because the U.S. Congress was so impressed at the success of Washington’s Shared-Work Program that it passed legislation in 2012 encouraging all states to create similar programs or to make existing programs even more accessible. As an incentive, Congress agreed to have the federal government cover most of the cost of Shared-Work benefits from July 2012 through June 2015.

The federal government is currently covering 92.8 percent of the Shared-Work benefit costs. That’s a pretty good deal!

Participation requirements

For businesses

  • Company may be any size - large or small.
  • Must be legally registered in Washington for at least six months prior to applying for the program.
  • Must be current on unemployment taxes or be on a payment contract.
  • Must employ two or more people.
  • Must be in compliance with IRS, state, county and municipal laws, rules and ordinances.
  • Must have paid unemployment taxes for past four quarters.
  • Must continue paying employee health and retirement benefits, vacation, holiday and sick leave under same terms and conditions, even after being accepted for the program.
  • May reduce work hours of participating employees by at least 10 percent, but no more than 50 percent. (A 40-hour employee can be reduced by at least 4 hours, but not more than 20 hours.)

For employees of the business who are enrolled in the program

  • Hired permanent and paid hourly (corporate officers are not eligible).
  • Eligible for regular unemployment benefits.
  • Able and available to work all hours offered by the Shared-Work employer.


  • Not designed to support seasonal businesses during the off-season.
  • Not for slowdowns that are an expected part of an industry or business.
  • May not be used for corporate officers.

Length of plan

A Shared-Work plan can last up to one year. If your request is for less than a year, it still counts as your one plan for the year. In most instances, it is best to open a plan for the full year so it will be available if you need it.

Similarly, employees can receive up to 52 weeks of Shared-Work benefits in each one-year plan as long as there is a balance available. The weeks do not need to be consecutive.


You will deal directly and exclusively with the Shared-Work Unit in Olympia on all matters about your plan and your participating employees' unemployment claims.

The bottom line

The Shared-Work Program saves you money and keeps your skilled work force intact.

Employees are spared the hardships of full unemployment and get more income than if they were fully laid off.

For more details, see Shared-Work laws and Shared-Work regulations.

Shared-Work forms and publications

Shared-Work forms are available online as Microsoft Excel or Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) files. You need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view PDF files. You can download this free software directly from Adobe.

Select a link below to open a form, then select "Save As" to save a copy to your hard drive. If you prefer, place your cursor over the link and then right-click your mouse button to open the dialog window. Select "Save Target As" to save the document to your computer.

If you use Excel or PDF to complete the Shared-Work application packet, you can upload your application from the link below.

Instructions for uploading the Shared-Work form:

  1. Save the application packet to your hard drive. Please include your company’s name in the file name.
  2. After completing the forms, please sign and date them. A signature for the collective bargaining agent is necessary, if applicable.
  3. Scan or copy the original with signatures before you select the “Upload Shared-Work form” link below.
  4. Select the “Browse” button to choose the completed document files to upload from your saved document.
  5. When the named document you choose to upload appears in the text box, select the “Upload” button to send the document to the Shared-Work Unit. 
If you are not able to use this process, you must fax the completed forms, with signatures, to the Shared-Work Unit at 800-701-7754.

Click to upload forms

Shared-Work forms:

Contact information

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