COVID-19 business information
Employment Security can help Washington’s employers weather the financial impacts of COVID-19.
During the pandemic, federal and state government moved rapidly to respond to COVID-19. A lot has changed. See questions and answers about legislation and new rules that affect employers.
How Employment Security is responding
A series of emergency rules will relieve the burden of temporary layoffs, isolation and quarantine for workers and businesses. Some of our emergency rules have transitioned to become permanent rules.
Visit our COVID-19 rulemaking page for the latest rules and amendments, supporting documentation, and responses to public comments.
About employer taxes
This page is updated frequently. Check back for the latest information.
• Filing your quarterly tax reports and responding to information requests
• Getting help over the phone
• Temporary shutdowns, SharedWork, standby, and partial employment
• Unemployment, health insurance and paid leave
• Paying claimants while they’re getting unemployment benefits
• Permanent business closures
• Requesting relief of benefit charges
• Reimbursable employers
• Resources for businesses
We need your tax reports—filed early or on time—more than ever before. An unprecedented number of Washingtonians are applying for unemployment and your reports are crucial to finding out if they can establish a claim. Quarterly tax reports are due on April 30, July 31, Oct. 31, and Jan. 31 each year.
We know you're experiencing this crisis too. We are offering more leniency to employers who can't file on time because of COVID-19. You will need to request a penalty waiver in writing.
What if I am late in filing tax reports, paying taxes, or responding on time to requests for information because of COVID-19?
Late reports and responses impact benefit claims. At the same time, we know COVID-19 has disrupted operations for many businesses.
- We may now waive penalties for responses that are late because of COVID-19.
- Please do everything you can to provide information on time.
- You will need to request a penalty waiver in writing.
If I paid an employee using money from a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, are those payments reportable?
Yes. PPP payroll payments for individuals employed on a full-time, part-time or other basis are reportable.
If I need to temporarily shut down my business due to a possible COVID-19 contamination or quarantine at the worksite, can I receive a relief of benefit charges?
Taxable employers may qualify
You must send us a written request for relief of benefit charges.
What is an essential business?
Find Washington state’s list of essential businesses.
Is there a difference between a temporary layoff and partial unemployment?
Temporary layoffs are when employers let employees go due to reductions in force. Employers do not have to rehire those employees.
Partial unemployment is when workers who were hired full time have their weekly hours temporarily reduced by no more than 60 percent.
Note: Unemployment benefits are determined on a weekly basis. Full-time workers whose hours of work are reduced by one workday each week usually aren’t eligible for partial unemployment, usually because they earn too much in the week to be eligible. However, employers facing this possibility may be interested in the SharedWork program, see details below.
Do my employees have to look for other work to get unemployment benefits?
Yes, the job search requirement went back into effect in early July 2021. This means your employees will be required to look for work and document at least three approved job search activities each week in order to remain eligible for unemployment benefits.
You also could request to place your employees on standby for up to 8 weeks if your employees have a return-to-work date.
Check the job search requirements page for more information.
Can business owners get unemployment benefits?
If you previously elected to be covered for unemployment and paid unemployment taxes, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits. Under the corporate officer rules, LLC members/managers are not covered. The best way to find out is to apply.
Can employees of non-profits get unemployment benefits?
Most non-profit employees are eligible for unemployment benefits, but some are exempt and can learn if they are by applying for benefits.
Non-Profit employers with unemployment questions can contact our Accounts Management Center via email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 855-829-9243.
For claimants to be on SharedWork, their employers must apply to participate in the SharedWork program. It allows employers to reduce hours by as much as 50 percent, while their employees collect partial benefits to replace a portion of their lost wages. We use the SharedWork chart to deduct their earnings from their weekly benefits.
- Employers must apply to participate in the program.
- SharedWork is for employees who are both permanent and paid hourly, or who can calculate their salaries as an hourly wage.
- Claimants on SharedWork do not have to look for other work but must be available for all work offered by their regular employer.
- Employers must continue to pay for employees’ health insurance.
- SharedWork plans last one year and have a maximum benefits payable amount.
- Employees who work fewer hours may run out of benefits more quickly.
- SharedWork participants may be eligible for benefit extensions.
Standby is a way for your employees to collect unemployment benefits without having to look for other work. Standby is available for employees who have been laid off or had their hours reduced, and for those who have a probable return-to-work date.
To qualify for standby, the worker must:
- Have been full- or part-time employees; and
- Be returning to full- or part-time work with their regular employer; and
- Have a probable return-to-work date. Workers cannot exceed a total of 8 weeks of standby on a claim. But in extraordinary circumstances, ESD can give employers permission to extend standby.
Example of extreme and usual circumstances: Employer needs to shut down to repair damage from a natural disaster or a fire at the business. We do not consider normal seasonal shutdowns to be extreme or unusual circumstances.
To learn more about standby, visit the Temporary layoffs, standby and partial unemployment page.
Is there a specific amount of notice an employer needs to give their standby employee to come to work?
This is Labor & Industries’ area of expertise. Visit their website for more information.
This describes employees who continue to work at least 40 percent of their regular full-time hours each week.
- When they apply for benefits, they should choose “currently working reduced hours (partially employed).”
- They must report any hours and earnings for each week they claim benefits.
- We use this standard earnings and deductions chart to deduct their earnings from their weekly benefits.
To be considered partially employed, all the following must apply. Your employees:
- Were originally hired as full-time employees.
- Work at least 40 percent of their regular full-time hours during the period of reduction (16 hours) each week.
- Expect to return to their employer full-time within four months.
If partially employed claimants file a weekly claim and report less than 16 hours, they may need to search for work, depending on current rules.
I want to continue paying for my employees’ health insurance while they’re laid off. Can they still claim unemployment?
Continuing to pay for your employees’ health insurance, will not affect their ability to receive unemployment benefits. Please go to the state Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC) website for more information, or contact your insurance carrier for more info about who is eligible to participate in your health plan.
Are claimants eligible for unemployment benefits if they’re receiving paid sick leave?
Employees receiving paid sick leave must report it on their weekly claim. It is deducted from their weekly benefits and they may be eligible for partial benefits.
Am I required to pay my employees their accrued sick time if they aren’t sick?
That is Labor & Industries’ area of expertise. Check out their FAQs.
Are claimants eligible for benefits if they’re using other paid leave, like vacation?
Paid time off counts as earnings, but they may still be eligible for a partial benefit.
Can I require employees to use all their paid leave before applying for unemployment because of a temporary shutdown?
While using paid leave is preferred because it covers 100 percent of wages, there’s nothing requiring employees use up their paid leave before filing for unemployment. If employees cash out their accrued leave, it should not be reported because it's not deducted from their weekly benefit. However, if it is assignable to a specific week that they claim benefits, they must report it on that week’s claim.
Can I pay my employees in a way that supplements their benefits?
Claimants file for benefits weekly and must report any payment they receive from their employer(s). That includes sick leave, paid time off, vacation, and other supplemental payments. Those payments are deducted from claimants’ weekly benefit amount. See the standard UI or the SharedWork deduction charts.
Can I pay the difference between unemployment benefits and my employees’ wages?
What happens if I pay my employees severance pay before they file their claim for unemployment?
If you pay the severance to your employees before they file their claim and it doesn’t apply to any weeks they file for benefits, it will not affect their unemployment benefits.
What will happen to my employees if I go out of business due to impacts from COVID-19?
If you lay off employees due to a permanent closure, they can apply for unemployment benefits. We determine eligibility on a case-by-case basis. Layoff assistance may be available for businesses facing major layoffs.
Visit ESD's benefit charge relief page for more information.
How does the Protecting Nonprofits from Catastrophic Cash Flow Strain Act of 2020 (Protecting Nonprofits Act) improve implementation of the applicable reimbursement?
The Protecting Nonprofits Act provides flexibility to States so that reimbursable employers do not have to pay the full cost of benefits upfront to then receive relief.
Where can I get more information?
Visit ESD's webpage for reimbursable employers.
Business.wa.gov: Small Business Guidance
Federal and national
- US Department of Labor
- US Chamber of Commerce: Small business guide, workplace tips and more.
- US Small Business Administration: PPP program, disaster loans and more.