DWD Secretary Ray Allen
DWD Secretary Ray Allen

Unemployment News for Employers

Newsletter Article Topics:  Public Hearing  |  Reserve Fund Statement  |  Lower Tax Rate Schedule  |  Drug Testing  |  Law Changes  |  Work Search Waiver  |  Work-Share  |  Respond Electronically

MESSAGE FROM DWD SECRETARY ALLEN

Dear Wisconsin Employer,

For the second consecutive year, employers covered under Wisconsin's Unemployment Insurance (UI) program will collectively experience a tax decrease.  After the estimated $97 million decrease for the 2016 tax year, employers will experience another decrease of roughly $38 million for the 2017 tax year.  That’s approximately $135 million in reduced UI taxes that businesses can instead use to grow their companies in Wisconsin and invest in the recruitment, training and retention of our state's world-class workforce.

While the growing economy is a key driver behind the UI tax reduction, our redoubled focus on program integrity has had a positive effect on the UI program as well. To this end our UI Division has concentrated more effort on enforcing work search requirements and ensuring those claiming benefits continuously meet the program's eligibility requirements.  We have also increased our efforts to refer those who have committed egregious fraud against the UI program for prosecution, resulting in over 110 referrals to county district attorneys and the Department of Justice.  We have a responsibility to Wisconsin employers, as our valued customers, to protect the UI program and ensure it is utilized properly and is available to workers in the event of a short-term layoff.

Under Governor Walker's leadership, we have implemented significant reforms since 2011 that have greatly benefited the UI Trust Fund, as demonstrated by the $1 billion balance earlier this year that resulted in the UI tax reduction.  In this newsletter you will find information on the most recent reforms to maintain the UI program as a temporary safety net that helps claimants achieve a rapid return to employment. 

Thank you for your commitment to Wisconsin's economic growth.

PUBLIC HEARING

Wisconsin's Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council invites the public to participate in a public hearing on Wisconsin's Unemployment Insurance law. The Council represents both employee and employer interests and recommends changes to unemployment law to the Wisconsin Legislature.

The public hearing will be conducted simultaneously at seven locations throughout the state during a session on Thursday, November 17, 2016 from 3:00 pm until 6:00 pm.  The live video conference will be available in the following cities: Eau Claire, Green Bay, La Crosse, Madison, Milwaukee, Superior and Wausau.

Written comments may be submitted to Janell Knutson, Chair, Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council, P.O. Box 8942, Madison, WI 53708 no later than November 18, 2016. Written comments may also be submitted via email to UILawChange@dwd.wisconsin.gov.

If you have any questions please contact Robin Gallagher at 608-267-1405 or for more information please visit http://dwd.wisconsin.gov/uibola/uiac.

CHANGES TO RESERVE FUND STATEMENTS

In June 2016, DWD began mailing Reserve Fund Balance Statements only when there are benefit charges or benefit adjustments posted to your account. You no longer receive a statement by mail when the only transaction affecting your Reserve Fund balance is a payment. All statements will continue to available by logging in at http://dwd.wisconsin.gov/uitax.

Continue to check your statements because your Reserve Fund balance affects your future tax rates. For more information please visit http://dwd.wisconsin.gov/ui201/t4201.htm#reserve_fund_balance.

LOWER TAX RATE SCHEDULE FOR 2017 RATES

The UI Trust Fund balance exceeded the $900 million threshold needed to trigger a lower lower UI tax rate schedule for 2017. The UI Reserve Fund balance was $980 million on June 30, 2016, the statutory date for measuring the balance used to determine the required tax rate schedule for the following year. The lower tax rate schedule is expected to reduce the total tax burden on covered UI employers by an estimated $38 million for 2017.

PRE-EMPLOYMENT DRUG TESTING PROGRAM

Under a new UI initiative, Wisconsin employers may report the name of anyone who either fails or refuses to take a pre-employment drug test that is a condition for an offer of employment.  Our UI Division makes it easy for employers to report this information and will keep the information secure and confidential.

Failing or refusing to take a pre-employment drug test is treated as a refusal of suitable work. If a claimant fails a pre-employment drug test and agrees to undergo drug treatment and complete a skills assessment, they can continue to collect UI benefits while they address the underlying barriers preventing them from being work-ready. UI will furnish the claimant with referrals and instructions so they can complete the assessment and access treatment directly. If they do not agree to treatment, they cannot continue to collect UI benefits. For more information please visit http://dwd.wisconsin.gov/ui201/b7201.htm#drug_testing.

UI LAW CHANGES IMPACTING EMPLOYERS

Real Estate Agent Exclusion:  2015 Wis. Act 258 amends the real estate agent exclusion to more closely match the federal real estate agent exclusion. The amendment excludes the services of a real estate “licensee” if 75% or more of the worker’s remuneration is directly related to sales or other output. In order for this exclusion to apply, the individual must perform the services under a written contract that provides that the individual will not be treated as an employee with respect to the services for federal tax purposes.  The effective date for the amendment is October 1, 2016.

Five bills were signed into law during the 2015-2017 biennium that relate to UI: 2015 Wis. Acts 55, 86, 203, 258 and 334.  Please visit the plain language summary for more information at http://dwd.wisconsin.gov/uibola.

WORK SEARCH WAIVER CHANGES REMINDER

In June of 2015, the new rule for waiving work search requirements for claimants who expect recall from their employers became effective.  The new rule meets employers' need for talent and helps more UI claimants transition back to employment quickly.

If a UI claimant expects to be recalled within 8 weeks, the claimant may request a work search waiver when filing their initial claim for unemployment benefits. The employer may extend the claimant's work search waiver by a maximum of 4 additional weeks by contacting UI after the claimant has filed their initial claim and providing a definite recall date. Employers may receive inquiries from UI claimants about the changes.

For more information about the work search waiver and requirements please visit http://dwd.wisconsin.gov/uitax/work_search_and_registration_waiver_changes.htm.

WORK-SHARE PROGRAM

Wisconsin's Work-Share program allows employers to retain experienced employees during times of reduced business activity.  It's a win-win for employers and employees; the Work-Share program minimizes layoffs by giving employers the option of reducing an employee's hours and having a portion of their lost wages replaced by UI benefits while continuing to provide employee benefits, making it more likely that trained workers are retained until normal business activity resumes.   For more information please visit http://dwd.wisconsin.gov/uitax/workshare.htm.

RESPOND ELECTRONICALLY TO UI REQUESTS

State Information Data Exchange System (SIDES) and SIDES E-Response are two web-based options developed through a partnership between the U.S. Department of Labor and state UI agencies to simplify and streamline responses to UI information requests. Employers may reply to the following forms online using the SIDES E-Response website:

More information please visit http://dwd.wisconsin.gov/ui/sides.

Wage information and other confidential unemployment insurance information may be requested and used for other governmental purposes, including verification of an individual’s eligibility for other government programs. For complete information on the rules regarding disclosure, refer to Wisconsin's Administrative Code Chapter DWD 149.

Publication UCT-17289-P (Rev. 10/2016)

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