Reforming the state's unemployment insurance (UI) system will be a key priority for the current legislative session now that the Legislature has agreed on a budget, said Elliott Shaw, director of government affairs for The Business Council.
"The budget deal in the Legislature is the earliest in years," Shaw said. "As a result, we are focusing earlier than usual on non-budget issues, and UI reform will be a top priority for the rest of the session."
The Business Council is urging changes to make UI taxes more equitable. Employers with relatively few layoffs have a higher UI tax burden than they should, said Chris Pugliese, The Council's UI specialist. UI tax tables should be revised so rates better reflect companies' actual employment histories.
The difference in UI taxes imposed on the most stable employers and those paid by employers with the most frequent layoffs is one of the smallest differences in the country. Increasing that difference would make UI taxes more equitable, he said.
The Business Council is also urging lawmakers to revise New York's standards for disqualifying and re-qualifying workers.
At present, a disqualified employee can re-qualify for UI benefits after working only five weeks and earning only five times the pay that he or she would receive in the benefit period.
The Council is urging that these standards be expanded to 10 weeks and 10 times the benefit earned, respectively.
A third reform would enhance the ability of employers to introduce evidence that could disqualify applicants for benefits, such as evidence that an employee was terminated for cause.