Senate Panel Releases Madden Bill To Provide Employers With Alternative To Lay-Offs

TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senator Fred H. Madden that would permit employers to offer unemployment benefits to employees whose weekly hours have been cut by at least 10 percent was approved today by the Senate Labor Committee by a vote of 5 to 1.

“We are living in tough economic times, and for hourly employees, even a slight change in the number of hours they work each week can pose a significant financial hardship,” said Senator Madden, D-Camden and Gloucester, who chairs the Senate Labor Panel. “Through this bill, we would be giving employers an alternative to laying-off employees. Employers would be able to provide ‘short-time’ unemployment benefits for workers whose hours have been cut, to help these employees make ends meet. This is a great program, and it would greatly benefit some of New Jersey’s hardest-working men and women.”

Senator Madden’s bill, S-1301, would permit employers with at least ten full-time employees to offer a shared work program to full-time employees. In order to qualify for the “short-time” unemployment benefits, employees would have to be eligible for regular unemployment benefits as if they were entirely unemployed, and they would have to be available to work full-time hours. The “short-time” weekly benefits would equal the individual’s weekly benefit rate, multiplied by the percentage of the reduction of wages caused by the loss of hours. Benefits would be limited to 26 weeks during a benefit year, and employees would not be able to receive both short-time benefits and unemployment benefits over the same period of time.

Employers participating in the program would be prohibited from hiring additional part-time or full-time employees.

Employers seeking take part in the program would be required to apply for approval from the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Each program would be approved for one year, with annual renewals upon request. Employers would be required to sustain existing fringe benefit levels, provide information to allow the Department of Labor and Workforce Development to monitor compliance, and certify that any applicable labor unions approve the use of the program.

This measure now heads to the full Senate for approval.

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