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Employer unemployment FAQ: COVID-19

Frequently-asked questions about unemployment and COVID-19 from employers, answered.

To address the many drastic impacts the current COVID-19 emergency is having on Massachusetts employers and workers, the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) has taken a number of steps to assist you and your employees.

The following questions and answers explain and clarify questions employers may have during this  difficult time.

Please be sure to give your employees information regarding applying for Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits as is required by law.

Table of Contents

Refusal to work

Our business will close for a period of time due to Covid-19. When we reopen I plan to offer all my staff their jobs back. If they refuse to come back when I offer them their jobs, will they keep collecting benefits?

 Refusing work because you would rather collect more money in unemployment benefits is not reasonable in any circumstances and is considered fraud. Refusing work due to a generalized fear of Covid-19 is not approvable.

Employees who can work remotely for their current employer and refuse to do so, or who quit work solely to collect unemployment benefits, may be denied benefits. But employees with a reasonable justification for refusing to return to work remain eligible for benefits. Determining what is “reasonable” is a fact-specific inquiry.

The employee’s own health situation is an important consideration, as are the work conditions and the job the employer offers, including whether employees work with or near other employees or members of the public.

If an individual’s work requires them to be physically present in the workplace, the employer may lawfully terminate individuals who refuse to return to work.

To report refusal to return to work, you can email: UIReturntowork@detma.org.

Can I report when an employee refuses to come back to work or refuses an offer of work?

You can report job refusals at UIReturntowork@detma.org.

Please report the date the offer of work was made, the date the employee would have returned to work, and a description of how the offer was directly communicated to the employee. Also report the following details about the work offered:

  • Date the work would start
  • Full-time / part-time
  • Rate of pay
  • Type of work performed
  • Reason for employee’s refusal (if given)
  • Is the employee being recalled to the same type of work previously performed? If not, describe the former working conditions.
  • Method the job offer was communicated to the employee

Returning to full-time or part-time work

What happens to my employees’ claims when they return to full employment?

When your employees return to full-time work there is no need to contact the Department of Unemployment Assistance. Any returning full-time employee should simply stop filing the weekly certification, and the claim will automatically be closed by the system.

If employees later become unemployed or their hours are reduced, they will need to apply for unemployment online.

What happens to my employees’ claims if they return to part-time employment?

If employees return to part-time work, depending on the number of hours worked and gross earnings during a week, they may still be eligible for partial unemployment benefits. If they return to part-time work, they may continue filing weekly claims. The system will adjust their weekly unemployment benefit payment based on the gross wages reported. Failure to correctly report work and earnings may result in overpayments and possibly the imposition of a penalty. Remember, once work returns to full-time, or your employee begins to consistently earn over their weekly benefit amount, they are no longer eligible for benefits and can simply stop filing the weekly certification.

I am ready to reopen/increase business and call my employees back to work. What needs to be communicated to my employees?

You should directly and clearly communicate the details on the work offered. The details should include start date, full-time / part-time, the wage, type of work, hours, general location, and conditions of the job. An employee must understand work is being offered as opposed to a general discussion of work possibilities. If a job offer is made, it must be clearly communicated as an offer of work. If an employee refuses the job offer, depending on the reason, the employee may be disqualified from receiving further benefits.

Employer charges

I need to layoff staff. How will layoffs affect the rate I am charged?

Under the CARES ACT, private and governmental contributory employers will not be charged for COVID-19 related claims until Dec. 31, 2020 unless extended. These COVID-19 related claims will be charged to the Solvency Fund. 

Non-COVID unemployment claims will be charged to employers’ accounts.

My business remains open and employees are expected to report to work. Will workers that quit their job because they are concerned about being exposed to COVID-19 be eligible for unemployment benefits?

It depends. Under current law, employees that demonstrate that they left work due to “urgent, compelling, and necessitous circumstances” are eligible for benefits. Such determinations are driven by the facts of the individual case. An employee who leaves work because of a fear of being exposed to COVID-19 will need to demonstrate, among other things, that such fear was reasonable in the circumstances.

If the employee’s reason for leaving is determined to be urgent, compelling, and necessitous, the employer’s experience rating is generally not charged, unless the employer is self-insured.

I’m a governmental or nonprofit employer who pays for unemployment using the reimbursable method. How will I be charged for COVID-19 related claims?

Private and Governmental Reimbursable employers will only be charged for 50% of COVID-19 related claims.  Due dates for Reimbursable Bills will be extended once the bills are sent to employers. Employers will have 120 days to pay their Reimbursable Bills from the date the bills are printed.

For questions related to Reimbursable Bills and Payments please email UIEmployerReports@detma.org.

I just got my Benefit Charge statement and it looks like I’m being charged for COVID-19 related claims, what should I do?

Please review your charges starting with the July Benefit Charge statement as credits for COVID-19 related claims first appeared on that statement. Continue to review your statements as they come in thereafter. If you have not been credited for a COVID-19 related claim  or believe you have been charged in error, please submit a Benefit Charge protest.

How do I protest a benefit charge?

Due to COVID-19 all employers must submit their Benefit Charge Protests through their UI Online account. Before completing the protest online, please make sure you have the claimant’s complete name and Social Security number. Please log on to your UI Online account and follow the instructions below:

  • From Employer Home Page select Benefit Charge Activity then select Benefit Charge protests to request a review of charges.
  • Leave the document and statement mail date fields blank.
  • Complete all fields with a red asterisk.
  • The last day worked must match the last day worked on the claim.
  • Select “Other” as the reason for protest and type in your reason. Do not select any other option. 

I don’t have all the claimant information required to submit a protest online, who can I contact for help?

Please email EmployerCharge@detma.org with any questions or concerns related to benefit charges or submitting your protest online.

I need assistance accessing my UI Online account, who can I contact for help?

For assistance with resetting your password or to contact another department, please review our online Employer Customer Service Resources and Directory.

Proper handling for reporting fraudulent or improper unemployment claims

I just received notification for a fraudulent claim. What should I do?

 Below is how you should respond to various notifications to report likely fraudulent or improper unemployment claims.

If you receive a “Confirmation of Employment” letter:

  • The most effective and efficient way is to complete the form online
  • When filling out the form (online or in paper) please fill in the form as intended and do not write across the form, do not write notes outside of the specific questions, checkboxes, or other data entry areas
  • If the person still works for you please select “Still Employed-Part Time.” You make this selection even if the person is a full-time employee
  • If the person never worked for you, please select “The claimant did not work for me during the time period stated”
  • You should encourage the employee to file a fraud report and follow the guidance on reporting

If you receive a “Lack of Work” letter for an employee who either has never worked for your company or is employed by your company without any break in service for the past year:

  • The most effective and efficient way is to complete the form online
  • When filling out the form (online or in paper) please fill in the form as intended and do not write across the form, do not write notes outside of the specific questions, checkboxes, or other data entry areas.
  • If the person still works for you, please select “Still Employed-Part Time”. You make this selection even if the person is a full-time employee
  • If the person never worked for you, please select “The claimant did not work for me during the time period stated”
  • You should encourage the employee to file a fraud report and follow the guidance on reporting

If you or your employee is responding to a “Fact Finding Letter”

 If you receive a “Monetary Determination” and in disagreement:

You should encourage the employee to file a fraud report and follow the guidance on reporting.

If you received a “Benefit Charge Statement” and protesting a claim that you disagree with: 

  • Protests can only be filed online and not by any other mechanisms
  • On the online form, enter a comment saying “Fraudulent Claim” and then provide information why you believe the claim was fraudulent (e.g. The claimant still works for our company and when we spoke to the claimant they said they never filed a claim)
  • In a case where both you and the employee acknowledged that the claim was not filed by the employee, you should fill in the protest form using their UI Online account and the employee should be directed to file a fraud report and follow the guidance on reporting to protect their identity.

Additional Resources

Other information

If an employee’s claim is approved, is the first week paid?

Yes, employees will be paid for the first week if their claim was filed on or after March 10th.

What is WorkShare?

The WorkShare program is an alternative for employers faced with a cut in workforce. Employers can divide available work between affected employees instead of laying off workers. Employees are able to receive part of their unemployment insurance benefits while working reduced hours and being paid for those hours by their employer.

I am bringing my employees back to work and paying them wages for back weeks that they have already been paid UI. What do I do?

If you pay your employees for back weeks and they also filed for unemployment benefits for those same weeks, they will need to notify the department that they have received back pay. Failure to correctly report work and earnings may result in overpayments or possibly imposition of a penalty and prosecution.

What is the Payroll Protection Program (PPP)?

 DUA does not administer the Payroll Protection Program. For further information, please visit https://www.sba.gov/page/coronavirus-covid-19-small-business-guidance-loan-resources.

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