By Jessica Wray TheStatehouseFile.com INDIANAPOLIS – A House committee postponed a vote on legislation Tuesday that would create a partial unemployment benefit to help companies avoid layoffs after business and labor leaders expressed concerns about its details. [caption id="attachment_10118" align="alignright" width="400"]
AFL-CIO President Nancy Guyott listens to debate on a bill that would create work sharing program that would provide partial unemployment benefits for workers in danger of getting laid off. Photo by Lesley Weidenbener, TheStatehouseFile.com[/caption] House Bill 1288 would allow the state to use what’s called a work share program to help companies keep their workers on staff even during a downturn. Participating companies could keep employees on at reduced hours, continuing to supply them with health and retirement benefits. The state would then provide employees with partial unemployment benefits. The proposal has been pushed in the past by Democrats, but Republicans leaders have generally been reticent. The bill’s author, Rep. Mike Speedy, R-Indianapolis, said he understands why members of the House Labor and Employment Committee he serves with would have reservations about his bill. “They want to learn more about the program before they get behind it,” Speedy said. “This is the first time it’s been heard by the legislature ever.” The bill creates a list of eligibility requirements for businesses. Employers, for example, would have to prove that without the work share funds they would have to lay off workers. [caption id="attachment_10119" align="alignright" width="400"]
House Employment, Labor and Pensions Chairman Doug Gutwein, R-Francesville, asked questions Tuesday about a work sharing bill that didn't get a vote on Tuesday. Photo by Lesley Weidenbener, TheStatehouseFile.com[/caption] But some lawmakers expressed concern that the bill lacked measures to ensure companies didn’t abuse the work share program. Another lawmaker questioned whether employers would be prohibited from adding workers while receiving supplemental funds from the state to pay for other employees. Speedy said he was trying to address the concerns. “We are hopefully coming out of an economic downturn and we are trying to take the lessons we’ve learned from this downturn and prepare for the next time it happens,” Speedy said. Indiana AFL-CIO President Nancy Guyott commended the concept of the bill but criticizing its details. “Unfortunately, the language in the bill lacked protections for workers who would be involved in the program that we think are essential to actually doing what the program is intended to do, which is to avoid layoffs and avoid financial losses to working families,” Guyott said. She said the work share idea is an important one and should move forward – but only after the legislation is amended. “This program is most effective at the beginning of a downturn rather than at the end of a downturn, because it allows employers to plan how to survive best and keep their workers employed and in health care benefits and retirement benefits, which is important to family income overall,” Guyott said. The committee plans to hold the bill for further discussion. Jessica Wray is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.
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