Unemployment Law Project wins fight to reform hours of availability rules

August 10, 2021

A new hours-of-availability rule that will help many Washington state unemployment benefits claimants became final July 26, 2021. The Unemployment Law Project has been working on this reform with the Employment Security Department (ESD) since 2017. ESD proposed this rule in response to concerns ULP and other worker advocate groups have raised for several years about the impact of hours-of-availability rules on caregivers.

When the new rule (WSR 21-11-004) takes effect January 2, 2022, it will make some major changes:

  • For the estimated 40% of claimants who work in fields with customary hours of 24/7, there will be no more requirement of 24/7 availability to work. Only a minimum of 40 hours of availability, chosen by the claimant, are required. (E.g., if you are offered a job that requires overtime, you are not required to accept it in order to be considered available to work.)
  • A claimant’s prior shifts of employment will be considered a working condition determining suitable work. (E.g., if you are in a job with customary hours of 24/7 but you generally worked 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, you will no longer have to accept a job offer that involves variable hours or a weekend shift or a graveyard shift.)
  • Claimants can choose the 40 hours they’re available, as long as the restriction on the number of hours they can work, the essential functions they can perform, and the occupations they are seeking do not substantially limit their employment prospects within their general area. (E.g., if you can only work evenings but there are very few jobs in your local area or your field of employment with those hours, you may have to expand your job search in order to be considered available to work.) 
  • The rule applies to all claimants with hours restrictions, not only those who are caregivers or who rely upon caregivers.

ULP thanks the experts and advocates who helped develop this important rule change and see it to the finish line: Pamela Crone, Rep. Mia Gregerson, Anne Paxton, Carolyn McConnell, Maggie Humphreys, Moms Rising!, Suzi LeVine, the ESD policy and rulemaking teams, Legal Foundation of Washington, Washington State Labor Council, Andra Kranzler, Lillian Kaide, Monica Holland, Kelly Sennott, Jana Wolff, Rebecca Smith, Sean Phelan, Joseph Kendo, Marilyn Watkins, and Deborah Maranville.

The Unemployment Law Project also thanks donors to our organization, who provide one third of our funding. Our donors were essential in bringing about this rule change. To help our ongoing efforts to reform laws and policy on unemployment benefits, please consider a tax-deductible donation of any size to ULP. You can make a donation at https://unemploymentlawproject.org/donate/ or by contacting us at 206-441-9178.

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