Hays Praises Passage of Sweeping Reforms to Illinois Unemployment Insurance

I am pleased to report that the House of Representatives gave final approval to sweeping reforms of the Illinois Unemployment Insurance Act on December 2 that will achieve cost savings to employers. These reforms – agreed to jointly by Governor, the business community and labor organizations – represent a significant step forward to strengthen the backbone of our economy; the innovators and entrepreneurs of our small business community.

Specifically, our reforms as contained in House Bill 1285 have three major parameters:

Prevents a $470 million tax increase on employers by eliminating the 2016 “rest stop.” In 2011, the state enacted a law that included what are known as “rest stops” or “speed bumps” which, in 2016 and 2018, were set to impose significant benefit reductions (drops in unemployment insurance benefits) coupled with a dramatic increase in employer contributions. Employers will now be spared that burden in 2016.

Eliminates the Social Security Offset to provide greater security to elderly and disabled workers. Currently, the Social Security old age and disability retirement benefits are considered “disqualifying income” under the Unemployment Insurance Act. In essence, if a worker is receiving Social Security benefits, their unemployment benefit is reduced by half of their Social Security benefit. This provision has been eliminated.

Strengthens the “misconduct” provisions to ensure greater protections to employers. An individual who is discharged for misconduct is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits. Currently, conduct must be willful and deliberate to trigger the misconduct disqualification. Under our reforms, misconduct will no longer necessarily have to be willful and deliberate.

The new law specifically addresses cases involving 1) falsification of documentation to obtain employment; 2) failure to maintain certain forms of accreditation required to perform the job; 3) knowing and repeated violations of reasonable attendance policies; 4) damage to employer property through gross negligence; 5) refusal to obey an employer’s lawful and reasonable instructions; 6) consumption of alcohol or non-prescribed prescription drugs or inappropriate use of other impairing substances; and 7) endangering workplace safety through gross negligence.

It is the intent of this new law that the reduction in benefit payments resulting from these misconduct provisions will negate the increase resulting from elimination of the Social Security offset.

Collectively, these changes strengthen the Unemployment Insurance Act for both employers and workers. As a strong advocate for our small business community, I hope you will join me in welcoming these meaningful reforms that achieve a net positive for employers throughout Illinois.