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Home » State Human Resources » Furlough and layoff information for employers » Furlough and SharedWork Program guidance for agencies

Furlough and SharedWork Program guidance for agencies

Version 6, updated Oct. 20, 2020 


This email is a follow up to Gov Jay Inslee’s Directive 20-08 dated June 17, which addresses furloughs and the general wage increase for state employees. Its purpose is to provide you, as an HR leader, with additional information to enable you to better understand your responsibilities regarding furloughs, time and leave reporting, and the SharedWork Program.

The directive applies to agencies under the governor’s control. We urge agencies not under the governor’s control, including separately elected officials, boards and commissions, and higher education institutions to take these steps to capture budgetary savings. 


All employees in relief (backfill) positions are excluded from the requirements outlined within the directive. Agencies may exempt additional employees from furloughs if the employees are:

  • Commissioned officers with Washington State Patrol
  • Working under a federal work authorization where a furlough would jeopardize their eligibility to work
  • ESD employees working on unemployment claims
  • Working in direct response to the pandemic at Military Department and Department of Health, including those directly involved in seeking FEMA reimbursements
  • Providing direct protective services to children and vulnerable populations where a furlough would likely result in significant public safety concerns
  • In positions 100% funded by bonds in the capital budget


Additional exceptions may be added and/or granted based on extenuating and changing circumstances determined by the director of the Office of Financial Management, or designee. Please send your exception requests to In lieu of a form, agencies should use a memorandum format addressed to the director of the Office of Financial Management and answer the following questions or prompts:

  • Describe (ideally 50 words or less) the function that cannot be furloughed one day per week at least through the end of July. 

  • The Governor has acknowledged that the furloughs may have an impact on services. Describe why the impact of furloughs for this function presents both a reasonably foreseeable and unacceptable level of risk?

  • Is this function related to the state’s pandemic response? If so, how?

  • In the past month, have employee’s performing this function worked regularly more than 40 hours per week?

  • Do you expect that employees will be taking approved personal leave during this time? If yes, how do you plan to cover the function in the absence of the employee(s)?

  • Can this function be staggered amongst other staff? If no, why not (ideally in 25 words or less)?

  • Will furloughing employees performing this function result in lost revenue or expenses exceeding the cost savings of the employee’s furlough?  

  • How is the position funded? 

  • Is the position performing work your agency will seek FEMA reimbursement for? 

Please note: agencies will still be obligated to reduce their expenditures in alignment with directed amounts even if some of their employees fit the exemptions above. OFM budget will provide additional guidance to agencies on these directed amounts.


Voluntary furloughs

Effective immediately, agencies under the governor’s control must apply for participation in the Employment Security Department’s SharedWork Program and offer voluntary furloughs all eligible employees. Each agency will have the discretion to approve an employee’s request to be temporarily laid off on a case-by-case basis. Agencies do not need to offer the option of voluntary furloughs to relief employees or employees who meet the exemption criteria above.

Employer-directed furloughs through July 25, 2020

In addition to voluntary furloughs and as part of ESD’s SharedWork program, agencies under the governor’s control must immediately furlough all employees in non-relief positions one day per week beginning no later than June 28, 2020 and continuing through July 25, 2020. If agencies have identified additional staff that meet one or more of the exemption criteria above, agencies may exempt them from the furlough.

Employer-directed furloughs August 1, 2020 through November 30, 2020 (Updated guidance 10/20/20)

Beginning August 1, 2020 through November 30, 2020, agencies under the governor’s control will designate ongoing furloughs one day per month for the group of employees identified above.

Update: The SharedWork program may not be available for furloughs taken after October 20, 2020.  Therefore, October furloughs should be taken on or before October 20, 2020 if possible. This will ensure that employees who are currently eligible for SharedWork can receive the unemployment benefit for each furlough day.

The November furlough will be delayed to a later date, most likely no later than June 30, 2021.

Employees should only be directed to furlough for 8 hours each week they are furloughed (total hours worked for that week should be 32 hours). However, agencies have the flexibility to move furlough days to different months (within August-November) upon request of the employee and with mutual agreement by the employer, as long as the same number of furlough days/hours are taken. For example, an employee may request not to take a furlough day in October and to take two furlough days in one week in November.. However, if an employee plans to submit a weekly claim for SharedWork (SW) unemployment benefits, the employee must be furloughed between 10-50% (4 – 20 hours) each week in order to qualify for the SW payment. In the example above, furloughing for four days in one workweek would exceed the 50% limit for SW eligibility. It is recommended that the employer advise employees requesting flexible furlough days that they must stay between the 10-50% reduction in hours in the furlough workweek to maintain SW eligibility.

Possible furloughs thereafter

In the coming months, discussions will continue regarding rolling furloughs on and after Jan. 1, 2021 and throughout the next biennium, to minimize permanent cuts to programs, services and full-time employees. If rolling furloughs continue, their length and frequency will be determined by budgetary information, the feasibility of other strategies for reducing costs, and will be balanced with agency operational needs.

SharedWork Program

What is the SharedWork Program?

The SharedWork Program is a voluntary business sustainability program administered by the Employment Security Department. It provides flexibility for employers to retain employees at reduced hours. 

SharedWork Program and the CARES Act

The CARES Act provides federal funding to state unemployment agencies through December 26, 2020. It funds “an amount equal to 100 percent of the amount of [Shared Work] compensation paid under a [Shared Work] program.

Ended July 25th, 2020: The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Program provides a flat, extra $600 weekly payment paid entirely by the federal government for unemployed and partially unemployed workers. This extra $600 is available in Washington only through the unemployment week ending July 25, 2020. This full additional payment under the SharedWork Program applies to permanent employees and will not be paid to employees who are seasonal (during their off season), temporary or intermittent (non-permanent/on-call). Employees who are not eligible to participate in the SWP may be eligible for regular UI benefits which may include the extra $600 payment. 

Applying for the SharedWork Program

Agencies are urged to apply to the SharedWork program online at ESDs E-Services. OFM State HR and ESD have partnered to streamline the process for agencies, employees and the ESD team. Each agency is required to submit a SharedWork application to ESD. The agency may be required to submit more than one application. For example, if an agency has multiple ESD numbers and employees with different representation status, they will need to submit more than one application. Each of the following employee groups per ESD number will require a separate application:

  • Non-represented employees
  • WFSE represented employees
  • All other union represented employees

If an agency decides to use the electronic application, it is important to save the application before filling it out to avoid data loss. We have also provided a process flow chart for your reference.

OFM State HR will follow up with an email to your HR directors with required files and a report containing names and details for all permanent employees at your agency to assist in completing the required files. This report contains a list of all of the required data elements to assist you in completing the application. Agencies may use the data to identify any required relief positions or any that meet the narrow exemption criteria above before submitting the list with their application to ESD. After an agency’s SharedWork plan is approved, the agency will continue to have the ability to add or remove employees to its approved SharedWork plan.

Update - MOUs signed with all labor organizations representing state employees in late June/early July
Part of the application process requires labor agreement. On behalf of agencies, OFM State HR/Labor Relations is currently in discussions with labor. As agreements are reached, OFM State HR will send notification to impacted agencies so newly eligible employees can be included within the agency’s SharedWork Program. OFM State HR will notify ESD of labor approval by providing a copy of the memorandum of understanding. Agencies do not need to include union approval(s) in their application submittal. Agencies are encouraged to begin the other parts of the application, including the eligibility list, while these agreements are being reached. For higher education institutions which bargain locally, those institutions must work with their labor organizations to obtain agreement.

Designated agency SharedWork point of contact

Each agency must assign a SharedWork point of contact who is responsible for coordinating the program for their agency. More than one POC can be listed; ESD recommends multiple contacts are identified and provided to ESD from large agencies. One POC will be responsible for the management of the agency’s information within EAMS account. Generally, the HR director and payroll managers are listed as the POC. Your agency SharedWork POC will also help answer questions from SharedWork participants and communicate pertinent information throughout the course of the program. ESD asks that the POC remain the same for the program’s duration out of extenuating circumstances.

Additional information regarding employees

  • In order for employees to receive UI compensation as a SharedWork participant, employees will be required to have a SAW account to 1) apply for unemployment benefits; and 2) file weekly claims. If the agency has submitted the employee name within the SW Application, the system will recognize and associate the application within that work stream. If not, the employee will be processed as a normal unemployment claim.
  • Once their application is received, employees must submit weekly unemployment claims even if they did not have any reduced hours during that week. This keeps their claim open and they will not be required to reopen a claim.  (Note:  If the employee misses more than 4 weeks, the employee will have to reopen a claim during the first week they want to begin filing again.)
  • Represented employees must have union approval in order to receive unemployment benefits under the SharedWork plan. This will be done in the form of an MOU or other way of agreement.
  • To avoid the requirement for waiting a week (Proclamation 20.21), employees must file their UI application prior to July 4. For example, an employee will file their initial UI application before July 4, take a furlough day in the week between June 28 and July 4, and then file their weekly claim after the week is over (anytime beginning Sunday July 5 through July 10 or at the latest on June 11).
  • Employees who have been targeted for unemployment imposter fraud are advised not to access their eServices account or apply for benefits until they hear from ESD. Employees will receive instructions via their state email address on how to unlock their SAW account and how to apply for benefits. These instructions will be sent before June 28.
  • Employees will need to know their hourly rate of pay. For salaried employees, this rate may vary based on the available hours within that pay period. ESD recognizes variations can occur based on available hours. If employees use their standard hourly rate within their filing, their claim should be processed without issues. Agencies will need to provide the standard hourly rate to employees with their packet. ESD will provide the employee packets to the agency POC. Employees will need to know this rate when filing for benefits. This rate should take into account the July 1, 2020 GWI and any other salary increases, such as periodic increases, the employees may receive. You will not need to continue to provide weekly hourly rates or routine hourly rate updates to employees.   

 SWP Webinars and others useful information

Once an agency is approved for the SharedWork Program, ESD will email the agency representatives the approval welcome letter along with attachments that include an employee packet. ESD will also provide webinars for both employers and employees to make sure the application process runs as smoothly as possible.

Leave Codes

For furloughs part of the SharedWork Program (under the Governor’s directive (50% or less of an employees work week), time and attendance processors utilizing HRMS should utilize leave code 9403 (LWOP Temp Layoff\ShrdWork). This is a new leave code and became  effective June 21. Any other furlough or temporary layoff absence that is not part of the SharedWork Program/Governor;s directive or because they comprise over 50% of an employee’s hours in a workweek should be coded in HRMS using 9396 (LWOP Temp Layoff\Agency Action). It is vital that agencies not use the SharedWork code for furloughs that are not part of the program. Both codes report reduced retirement hours. SharedWork expenditures are reimbursable between now and December, so we need accurate reporting to ensure we are getting reimbursed for the costs. In other words, 9396 should be used for non-reimbursable furloughs (agency directed or voluntary if not part of the SharedWork program).

SharedWork resources

Employees on leave

Employees who use protected leave (including but not limited to EPSL or EFML), or those using protections under proclamation 20-46 regarding high-risk individuals, may not be targeted for layoff or reduced hours because of their use of these protections. However, as long as an employer applies documentable, neutral criteria to identify employees for furloughs that is not based on the employee’s use of protected leave, people on protected leave can be furloughed just like people not using protected leave. If applying the criteria would only impact or would disproportionately impact those on protected leaves, or if there is any other doubt, agencies should seek legal advice before proceeding.

Next steps

State HR will provide sample furlough letters and Q&As for employers.


If you or your employees have questions about the SharedWork Program, please email




Explanation of update

June 17, 2020

Version 1.

June 18, 2020

Version 2 - Added exemption criteria.

June 20, 2020

Version 3 -  Formatting improvements based on edits by OFM Communications. Added requested criteria to be included along with exemption requests.

June 25, 2020

Version 4 - Under SharedWork section added additional information for employees, added links to under SharedWork resources section (ESD SharedWork Emergency rules and Gov Proclamation 20-21.4), minor edits throughout the document.

August 5, 2020 Version 5 - Added flexibility for when furlough days may be taken during August-November and updated leave codes and instructions. 
Oct. 20, 2020 Version 6 - Added information about SharedWork program not being available after October 20, 2020, and delay of the November furlough.
Last updated
Tuesday, October 20, 2020
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