DWD Secretary Ray Allen
DWD Secretary Ray Allen

Unemployment News for Employers

Newsletter Article Topics:   Drug Testing  |   Lower Tax Rate Schedule  |   Online Filing in 2017  |   Work Search Requirements  |   Worker Classification  |   Prevent Erroneous Payments  |   Respond Electronically

MESSAGE FROM DWD SECRETARY ALLEN

Dear Wisconsin Employer,

Since 2013, employers covered under Wisconsin's Unemployment Insurance (UI) program have saved an estimated $637 million in UI taxes. Those savings have been achieved through a combination of lower UI tax schedules due to a vastly improved UI Trust Fund balance, and less reliance on the UI program due to Wisconsin's growing economy and lower claim levels.

This is great news not only for employers, but the entire Wisconsin economy. The pro-growth reforms championed by Governor Walker and supported by the State Legislature have given employers more confidence to expand their operations and invest in their workforce. Wisconsin's unemployment rate has hovered near record lows in 2017, and our labor force participation rate consistently ranks in the top ten among states.

Integrity of the UI program remains a top priority at DWD. Building off the major reforms implemented since Governor Walker took office, members of the UI Advisory Council recently advanced another package of reforms to strengthen the integrity of the program and help ensure UI remains available as a temporary safety net for workers who lose their job through no fault of their own. We look forward to working with members of the Legislature to advance these important measures in 2018.

We will continue to examine ways to improve the operation of the UI program and provide the best possible customer service to those we serve. We continue to enforce UI program integrity measures such as work search auditing and other anti-fraud provisions, and we are streamlining our services by migrating to a 21st century online service delivery platform.

In 2010 Wisconsin's UI Trust Fund was over $1 billion in debt, costs to employers were skyrocketing and the unemployment rate was 8.1 percent in December, a month before Governor Walker took office. We have come a long way in seven years, and moving forward we will continue to administer a fair and efficient program that benefits both workers and employers and supports economic growth.

Thank you for your contributions to the great state of Wisconsin.

PRE-EMPLOYMENT DRUG TESTING PROGRAM HELPS THE UNEMPLOYED BECOME WORK-READY

Substance abuse and addiction can be significant barriers to employment. As businesses are struggling to find and hire workers, DWD is working to ensure individuals who are unemployed are work-ready. To this end, we have created a simplified process for employers to report to our UI Division anyone who either fails or refuses to take a pre-employment drug test as part of a job offer. This allows those individuals unable to pass a drug test to participate in DWD-sponsored drug treatment.

Failing or refusing to take a pre-employment drug test is treated as a refusal of suitable work and may result in denial of UI benefits. Claimants that fail a pre-employment drug test, and agree to undergo drug treatment and complete a skills assessment, may continue to collect UI benefits while they address the underlying barriers preventing them from being work-ready. If they do not agree to treatment, they cannot continue to collect UI benefits. Employers may report this information to DWD in compliance with state and federal law and the information submitted, including names and treatment records, is confidential. For more information please visit http://dwd.wisconsin.gov/ui/pre_employment_drug_testing.

LOWER TAX RATE SCHEDULE FOR 2018 REDUCES TAXES BY $20 MILLION

The UI Trust Fund balance has exceeded $1.2 billion, triggering a lower UI tax rate schedule for 2018. The lower tax rate schedule is expected to reduce the total tax burden on covered UI employers by an estimated $20 million for 2018.

Note: Employers with a zero rate are still required to file quarterly tax and wage reports.

The Unemployment Insurance Handbook for Employers is intended to assist employers in meeting their obligations under the Wisconsin Unemployment Insurance (UI) law, Chapter 108, Wisconsin Statutes. To keep up-to-date on all UI program laws and policies, please view or print this handbook at http://dwd.wisconsin.gov/uitax.

ONLINE FILING IN 2017, REQUIRED WORKPLACE POSTER UPDATES

In our efforts to modernize the UI program for both employers and workers DWD phased out the antiquated telephone filing system in 2017. Workers are required to file for unemployment benefits online at https://my.unemployment.wisconsin.gov. As we continue to enhance service delivery, weekly claim online filing is now available in both English and Spanish. Workers who need help using online services or are truly unable to go online can call the Help Center for assistance. Coming soon we will introduce a new, single-service claimant assistance line.

Workers should be notified of these changes to claim filing requirements. The Notice to Employees About Applying for Wisconsin Unemployment Benefits (UCB-7-P) will be updated to reflect this change.

Go to http://dwd.wisconsin.gov/dwd/publications/ui/notice.htm to print this revised required workplace poster and display it where workers will easily see it.

WORK SEARCH WAIVER CHANGES REMINDER

All workers filing for unemployment benefits must perform a work search unless the requirement is waived. This is a reminder because some of your workers may be affected in the coming months. The law permits this requirement to be waived for certain short-term layoffs. If you expect to recall your employee, a work search waiver may apply if:

Verification of recall instructions can be found at: http://dwd.wisconsin.gov/ui/faqs/work_search_and_work_registration.htm.

Please keep in mind if a waiver does not apply, the worker must perform the required work search immediately to maintain eligibility for unemployment benefits.

WORKER CLASSIFICATION EFFORTS PROTECT WORKERS, PROTECT EMPLOYERS

Proper worker classification is crucial for the UI program to operate properly and fairly for all employers and workers. DWD's efforts to combat worker misclassification have saved the UI Trust Fund $1 million since May 2013. Also during that time there have been approximately 1,263 worker classification investigations which resulted in 392 audits that have been conducted or scheduled. The audits resulted in 3,459 misclassified workers identified and over $1.4 million in UI tax, interest and penalties assessed.

Some of DWD's latest efforts include producing videos to educate employers on how to properly classify workers in Wisconsin for UI tax purposes. Additionally, DWD has recently created three public service announcements, in both English and Spanish aimed at educating employers and workers on worker misclassification. For further information, including a link to the videos, on how to properly classify workers in Wisconsin, please visit http://dwd.wisconsin.gov/worker_classification/ui.

PROVIDING CORRECT EMPLOYER NAME TO WORKERS PREVENTS ERRONEOUS PAYMENTS

Please be sure to provide your workers with the same business name and address you have on your unemployment account. When a worker files for unemployment benefits, the worker must provide correct employer information to prevent erroneous benefit payments and claim processing delays. This information could be displayed near the UCB-7, required UI workplace poster.

RESPONDING ELECTRONICALLY TO REQUESTS FROM UI SAVES TIME AND MONEY

State Information Data Exchange System (SIDES) and SIDES E-Response are two web-based options to simplify and streamline responses to UI information requests securely and free of charge.

Employers using SIDES E-Response can better anticipate and supply the data needed in a secure manner for UI information requests and in return, reduce follow-up phone calls and paper work, prevent improper payments, and streamline UI response processes, ultimately saving time and money. For 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. 10/2017)

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