SB 463 would acknowledge the important role that part-time workers play in today’s workforce by eliminating the outmoded rule that unemployed workers with a history of part-time work can collect benefits only if they search for full-time employment.
The Problem: Many part-time workers can’t collect unemployment benefits
Today, when Oregon workers who have consistently labored part time lose their jobs, they cannot collect unemployment benefits unless they are willing to take a full-time job. This is true even though employers pay unemployment insurance taxes on part-time workers’ wages, just as they do for full-time workers.
Currently, one in four Oregon workers labors part time. Most are women, and many are low-wage workers. Part-time workers contribute a substantial share of household income — 24.1 percent on average nationally.
Restrictions on part-time workers are part of the reason why many women and low-wage workers lose out on unemployment protections. In 2007, only 37 percent of unemployed women in Oregon received unemployment benefits, compared to 46 percent of unemployed men. And low-wage workers are half as likely as higher-wage workers to receive unemployment benefits, even though they are more than twice as likely to be unemployed.
For many part-time workers, full-time work is not a reasonable option. Some may be balancing work with caretaking responsibilities, for example.
The Fix: Allow part-time workers to search for part-time work
By enacting SB 463, Oregon would join 23 other states and the District of Columbia that already have part-time eligibility laws. Workers with a steady history of part-time work would be allowed to restrict their job search to similar part-time work while they collect unemployment benefits.
The federal stimulus bill, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, provides incentive funds for states to improve their unemployment insurance systems. If Oregon adopts an “alternative base period” as set forth in SB 462, the state would gain an estimated $91 million. These federal funds could be used to defer some of the additional costs associated with implementation of SB 463 as well as other modernization efforts.
The Benefits: Acknowledge part-time workers and help struggling families
Oregon’s Employment Department estimates that SB 463 would allow about 9,000 additional workers to claim unemployment benefits each year. By offering partial wage replacement, these benefits can help shore up family finances.