UI Forum (ADP Unemployment Group)
Second Quarter 2011
Documentation – Does It Really Matter?
Today, with so much focus on detailed separation data as a primary means to ensure unemployment insurance (UI) benefit integrity and reduce benefit overpayments, documenting worker actions and/or any progressive disciplinary steps has never been more important to employers. Maintaining current and detailed documentation of employee activities is the most effective tool for contesting unwarranted unemployment claims. Documentation may seem like a very time consuming process, but if kept straightforward, in the long run, it can save time and dollars.
There are a number of ways in which timely and concise documentation helps with UI claim and cost management. It guarantees the availability and permanency of files by creating a stable and consistent account of events that transpire. Documented information is an objective record that can be offered as proof of misconduct or policy violations that won’t fade or change with time. Documentation also helps facilitate any necessary disciplinary actions in a proper, sequential manner. Additionally, a detailed record of the final circumstances can delineate if the separation was a dismissal or a voluntary quit.
It is important for managers and supervisors to understand how daily activities regarding proper or improper maintenance of worker files can impact your UI costs. A personnel file not only tells the ongoing story of events regarding an employee’s behavior, but it can also reveal the quality of the company’s record-keeping. An important step for creating and maintaining effective documentation involves the training of managerial staff. Take the time to evaluate your training program and make sure it provides a framework for successful file documentation. Some important learning objectives include:
- Identifying and including key elements for an effective disciplinary form
- Ensuring progressive discipline steps are consistently followed and documented
- Validating the details of documentation included in employee files
- Developing a process and culture that embraces the importance and benefits of detailed documentation
In the end, documentation does really matter. When it is prepared consistently and completely, it can positively impact unemployment claim outcomes and costs.
Michigan Legislature Passes Bill Reducing UI Benefits
Michigan became the first state to reduce the maximum duration of unemployment insurance benefits for regular claims. Governor Rick Snyder recently signed the bill which lowers the number of weeks a claimant may collect UI from 26 weeks to 20 weeks, beginning January 2012.
For over a decade, the vast majority of states have had a 26-week maximum entitlement for regular UI benefits. Only two states have a greater maximum duration – Massachusetts (30) and Montana (28). Despite controversy and speculation over a law which sets Michigan apart from what has grown to be the norm, the bill contains another provision that enables the state’s extended benefit (EB) program to remain activated, thereby, helping the long-term unemployed.
Michigan’s EB program was set to expire at the beginning of April 2011, but a technical amendment to the law and the criteria to trigger state extended benefits will allow 150,000 claimants to continue receiving up to 20 weeks of EB. In addition, since state extended benefits are currently being funded by the federal government, it will also continue to ease the cost burden on businesses at a time when economic recovery is still in the early stages.
Supporters of these two law reforms say the intent is to help job seekers, job providers, and Michigan’s insolvent unemployment trust fund.
Arkansas – Legislation was recently passed that strengthens the “discharge for misconduct” language in the unemployment statutes. The term “misconduct” now includes a violation of any employer behavioral policies distinguishable from deficiencies in meeting standards or accomplishing job duties. In addition, for dismissals due to absenteeism, the law now says a person will be disqualified if the discharge is in accordance with the terms of a bona fide written attendance policy with written warnings, regardless of whether the policy is a fault or non-fault policy. Also, an individual will be disqualified from benefits for refusing an alternate suitable job rather than being terminated for poor performance.
Delaware – It was recently announced that the Temporary Emergency Employer Assessment estimated rate would be 0.11% or 0.12% of an employer’s calendar year 2010 taxable payroll. This assessment is used to pay the interest on outstanding Title XII federal loans the state has taken in order to continue paying unemployment benefits. The actual assessment rate will be released no later than June 30, 2011.
Maryland – It was recently announced that the Temporary Emergency Employer Assessment estimated rate would be 0.11% or 0.12% of an employer’s calendar year 2010 taxable payroll. This assessment is used to pay the interest on outstanding Title XII federal loans the state has taken in order to continue paying unemployment benefits. The actual assessment rate will be released no later than June 30, 2011.
In conjunction with the ABP law change, the Division of Unemployment Insurance recently implemented a new form. The Employer Alternative Base Period Wage Affidavit (DLLR/DUI EMPABP) will be issued when wage data for the most recently completed calendar quarter is needed. This form carries a $15 penalty if it is not timely responded to by the due date printed on the form.
Your ADP Unemployment Group representative will work on your behalf to ensure timely response to any of the new ABP forms received.
Missouri – Legislation was signed into law by Governor Jay Nixon on April 13, 2011, which reduces the maximum number of weeks of unemployment insurance benefits a claimant may collect during a benefit year from 26 to 20. This goes into effect for claims filed April 17, 2011 and after.
Montana – New legislation was recently enacted to include language in the unemployment statutes which define “misconduct.” Previously, the law only contained a definition for “gross misconduct.” Effective October 1, 2011, section 39-51-201 will be amended so that “misconduct” includes: willful or wanton disregard of the rights, title, and interests of a fellow employee or the employer; deliberate violations or disregard of standards of behavior that the employer has the right to expect of an employee; carelessness or negligence that causes or is likely to cause serious bodily harm to the employer or a fellow employee; or, carelessness or negligence of a degree or that reoccurs to a degree to show an intentional or substantial disregard of the employer's interest.
Inefficiency, unsatisfactory conduct, or failure to perform well as the result of inability or incapacity; inadvertent or ordinary negligence in isolated instances; or good faith errors in judgment or discretion will not be deemed misconduct.
South Carolina – Governor Nikki Haley recently signed legislation that reduces the time employers have to complete unemployment claim requests for information issued by the Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW). Form UCB-101 and NET-101 must now be responded to in 10 days instead of 12 days. If the deadline falls on a weekend or state holiday, a timely response will be honored the next business day.
Last year, the response time was increased from 7 days to 12 days, because the employer community believed that time period to be too short. The change, this year, to 10 days was enacted as the DEW found the longer response time made it difficult for them to then meet the federal time standards regarding payment to eligible claimants within 21 days of the initial claim filing.
Your ADP Unemployment Group representative will work on your behalf to ensure requests are completed with in the new 10-day limit.
Registration Open for UWC Annual UI Issues Conference
Registration is open for the 2011 National UI Issues Conference sponsored by UWC’s National Foundation for Unemployment Compensation and Workers’ Compensation. This annual event for employers will be held June 28-30, 2011 in St. Louis, MO, at the Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark.
Representatives from the USDOL, state unemployment agencies, and business will speak on a variety of topics, including: Unemployment Insurance Program National Update, Best Practices in UI Appeals and Tax Incentives to Encourage Hiring.
Attendees who register before June 3, 2011, can take advantage of the “early bird” discount. For conference details, go to: www.uwcstrategy.org/Conferences.aspx