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UC Issues Update Newsletter 

Spring 2019

Volume 22 | Number 1

UCMS Basic Account Information
Confirmation or Update Reminder

When logging in to UCMS, employers and employer representatives are required to confirm basic account information if it has not been done within the past 365 days.


Information to confirm or update includes:

  • Contact information and notification preferences,
  • Address information, and
  • Owner/Responsible party information

The continued maintenance of employer account information helps to ensure that the appropriate parties within an organization receive important tax information in the manner specified in the organization’s account.

For more information regarding the new confirmation process, please contact the Employer Contact Center at 866-403-6163 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.


SHARED-WORK FACT SHEET:
An Overview for Employers

What is Shared-Work?

  • Shared-Work is a voluntary program that provides employers facing a decline in business with an alternative to layoffs. • Shared-Work preserves employees’ jobs and the employer’s trained workforce during disruptions to the firm’s regular business activity by allowing the employer to reduce the work hours of a group of employees as an alternative to a layoff.
  • Employees covered by an approved Shared-Work plan receive a percentage of their normal UC benefit while they work the reduced work schedule, assuming they are otherwise eligible for UC.
  • Shared-Work cushions the adverse effect of the reduction in business activity on employees and ensures that these employees will be available to resume prior employment levels when business demand increases.

Why Choose to Participate?

  • Shared-Work offers an alternative to laying off your employees if you are facing a decline in business due to an economic downturn.
  • You can reduce employee work hours to reflect decreases in business demand, retain your skilled employees, and avoid the expense of recruiting, hiring and training new employees when business demand increases.
  • You determine your current production demands and your employees share the work as part ofyour Shared-Work plan.
  • Employees avoid the hardships of a layoff and continue to earn a portion of their regular wages.
  • Employees collect some unemployment benefits to replace a portion of their lost wages.

How Does It Work?

  • An employer wishing to participate in Shared-Work submits a Shared-Work plan to theOffice of UC Benefits for approval, identifying the:
    • Affected unit (or units) covered by the plan.
    • Number of full-time or part-time employees in the unit.
    • Percentage of employees in the unit that could be laid off if the plan is not approved.
    • Estimated number of layoffs that would have occurred absent the Shared-Work plan.
    • Employees in the affected unit to be served under the Shared-Work plan by name and SSN.
    • Employer’s unemployment tax account number.
    • Strategy of how the employer will notify employees in the affected unit (including those employees in a collective bargaining unit, if applicable). If notice is not feasible, an explanation must be provided.
    • Usual weekly hours of work for employees in the affected unit and the specific percentage by which their hours will be reduced during all weeks covered by the plan. The percentage of the reduction in hours must be between 20 and 40 percent. Any week for which the employer regularly provides no work (due to a holiday or other plant closing) should also be provided.
    • The first date that hours will be reduced for the employees and the number of weeks that the hours are expected to be reduced.
    • Any other information required by the Office of UC Benefits.
  • The Shared-Work employer also certifies that:
    • If the employer provides health and retirement benefits to any employee whose usual weekly hours of work are reduced, such benefits will continue to be provided under thesame terms and conditions as though the usual weekly hours of work for the employee had notbeen reduced or to the same extent as other employees not participating in the program.
    • The aggregate reduction in work hours is in lieu of layoffs.
    • The employer will furnish reports to the Office of UC Benefits relating to the proper administration of the Shared-Work plan and allow Office of UC Benefits access to all necessary records to approve or disapprove the plan application, and to monitor and evaluate the plan.
    • The employer will follow any other directives the Office of UC Benefits deems necessary for the agency to implement the plan which are consistent with the requirements for the Shared-Work plan application.
    • The participation and implementation of the plan is consistent with the employer’s obligation under applicable federal and state laws.
  • The Shared-Work employer submits biweekly reports to the department detailing the number of hours that each employee worked each week.
  • Employees receive a pro-rata share of the weekly unemployment benefits that the individual would have received if totally unemployed.
    • Example: An employee normally works a 40-hour work week. The employee’s work week is reduced by 8 hours or 20%. The employer submits a Shared-Work plan and it is approved. The employee qualifies for unemployment benefits and, if that individual was totally unemployed, would receive a weekly benefit amount (WBA) of $270.00.
      20% x 40 hours work week = 8 hours
      Employee works and earns wages for 32 hours
      20% x $270 WBA = $54.00.

      Under the Shared-Work plan, the employee receives $54.00 of unemployment benefits (before any deductions) in addition to the 32 hours of wages earned from the employer.
  • Employers can sponsor a training component to the Shared-Work plan which permits the employee in the affected unit to enhance occupational skills, if Office of UC Benefits have approved such training.

Learn More about Shared-Work

  • For additional information visit www.uc.pa.gov/Shared-work
  • You may apply online through the Unemployment Compensation Management System (UCMS) at: www.uctax.pa.gov, or you may print the application from the Shared-Work website at: www.uc.pa.gov/Shared-Work.
  • Contact Office of UC Benefits with any questions at 877-785-1531 or by email at SharedWork@pa.gov. Shared-Work staff will be happy to explain program details and assist you with your application.

ATTENTION ALL THIRD PARTY ADMINISTRATORS (TPAs)

Are you currently using multiple Keystone IDs and passwords for your clients? Are you logging into your clients’ accounts directly? Have you registered your clients for a Keystone ID and password instead of having your clients do so themselves? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, please read on!

L&I has not accepted paper power of attorney (POA) forms for Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation (PA UC) tax-related issues since the implementation of the Unemployment Compensation Management System (UCMS). While you may have your own business UC account with a Keystone ID and password, UCMS requires you to create a TPA account to use when filing quarterly reports and paying UC taxes on behalf of your clients.

For instructions on how to register as a TPA, please go to www.uctax.pa.gov, click on “New User,” enter your business’ legal name and FEIN, and select the radio button for “Third Party Administrator.” The website will then guide you through the registration process.

Upon completion of the registration process, you will receive a Keystone ID and password for your TPA account and a ten-digit identifier number. You will need to have your clients add you as a representative on their individual accounts using this ten-digit number. To do this, your clients need to log into their UCMS accounts, and select “Employer Profile” from the left navigation bar. From there, they will click on “Manage Representative,” and “Add New Representative.” This is where they will enter your ten-digit number, the date, and the function that they are authorizing you to perform.

Once your clients submit a request to add you as their TPA, you will need to sign into your TPA account and accept their requests in the “Representative Profile” portal located on the left side menu. To accept the request, select “approve.” Once approved, select “UCMS Home”, and then “My Home” to access the “TPA Client Search.” From here you will be able to select your client by, either using the drop-down box available, or searching for them using their legal name or account number. From there, you will be able to review your client’s accounts, based on the permission granted by your client.

Without this electronic handshake identifying you as your clients’ TPA, L&I personnel will be unable to discuss account specific information with you. L&I has a fiduciary responsibility to safeguard all confidential UC information, as prescribed under Sections 206(b) and 206(c) of the PA UC Law and Sections 61.23 of the UC Regulations found under Title 34 of the PA Code. Should you need to discuss your clients’ accounts, please contact our Employer Contact Center at 1-866-403-6163.

Treasury Offset Program

The Treasury Offset Program (TOP), administered by the United States Department of the Treasury, recoups claimants’ overpayments due to fraud or unreported earnings and unpaid UC taxes from employers. Federal law permits states to recover certain UC debts from both claimants’ and employers’ federal income tax refunds.

Since the program’s inception in Tax Year 2011 through Tax Year 2017, TOP has recouped approximately $115.35 million from claimants and in excess of $3 million from employers via federal income tax refunds.

To assist the UC service centers in determining whether a claimant has unreported earnings, employers should always respond to requests for wage verification and wage information. This information allows L&I to identify when a claimant receives UC benefits fraudulently, to assess the appropriate overpayments and penalties, and to credit the employer’s account properly.

Don’t waste time or money, when sending in correspondence (in lieu of the form UC-44FR)If you or your Consultants send in a request for relief from charge not on the 44FR

All the list below must be added to the paper.

  • please state that you are requesting relief from charges,
  • company name and account # number,
  • claimants name and SS#
  • the last day the claimant worked for you
  • and give reason with detail of the reason for separation.

What is Worker Misclassification?

Worker Misclassification is a nationwide problem which negatively impacts Pennsylvania’s economy and Unemployment Compensation Fund, and creates an uneven playing field for employers who properly classify their workers. Worker misclassification occurs when employers inaccurately treat certain employees as independent contractors. This may be done to reduce payroll and other costs. Incorrectly classifying a worker as an independent contractor causes harm to the worker by withholding rights that belong to legitimate employees.

Under the PA UC Law, a worker performing services for remuneration is presumed to be an employee, unless the employer shows that (1) the individual has been and will continue to be free from control or direction over the performance of the services involved, both under his or her contract of service and in fact, and (2) as to these services, the individual is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession or business.”

For a worker in the construction industry, in addition to these two criteria, the Construction Workplace Misclassification Act (Act 72) requires that the worker have a written contract to perform such services to be an independent contractor.

Pennsylvania’s UC Law requires an examination of the facts to determine if the worker is an independent contractor or an employee. As such, “independent contractor” status is not conclusive based solely on an employer designation, either verbally or in writing, that an individual is an “independent contractor,” a statement by an individual that he or she is an “independent contractor,” issuance of a Federal Form 1099, and/or failure to withhold taxes or pay workers’ compensation premiums.

Business owners should maintain sufficient documentation to support the reasons for classifying any individual as an “independent contractor.”

Incorrectly classifying workers not only harms the workers, but also puts the business at risk of legal action and owing back taxes, interest, penalties, and fines. If a business fails to properly classify a construction worker as an employee, L&I may assess civil penalties of up to $1,000 for the first violation and up to $2,500 for each subsequent violation. L&I may also seek a stop-work order from a court for intentional violations.

If you have questions regarding the classification of workers, please call the UC Employer Contact Center at 866-403-6163, on weekdays from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., Eastern Time.

Avoid Common Mistakes When Filing a Petition for Reassessment

Under section 304 of the Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Law, the Office of UC Tax Services (OUCTS) may issue a Notice of Assessment to an employer to establish liability for amounts believed due. An employer that does not agree with the assessment may file an appeal, referred to as a Petition for Reassessment, with the UC Tax Review Office (UCTRO). Although the names of the offices are similar, the UCTRO is not a part of OUCTS. The UCTRO is a separate office that conducts independent reviews of determinations made by the OUCTS.

The Notice of Assessment includes detailed instructions for filing a proper appeal. Employers must follow the instructions carefully to avoid the following common mistakes when submitting a Petition for Reassessment:

  1. Deadline/Timeliness: An employer has 15 days from the date shown on the Notice of Assessment tofile its Petition for Reassessment. If the appeal is not filed with the UCTRO within 15 days from the date of the Notice of Assessment, the appeal is untimely. (The date of filing is determined by the way the appeal is filed, and is detailed in the department’s regulations.) An untimely Petition for Reassessment will be dismissed.
  2. Factual and Legal Reasons: If an employer disagrees with the Notice of Assessment, it must provide, at the time of filing, the factual and legal reasons why the assessment is believed to be incorrect. Factual and legal reasons cannot be added after the appeal has been filed; all issues for which a review is sought must be stated at the time of filing. Failing to list the factual and legal reasons for the appeal, or leaving that section of the Petition for Reassessment blank, will result in the dismissal of the appeal. Such appeals frequently present the underlying legal issue that the workers in dispute are not employees, but are independent contractors. However, simply making such an assertion, without providing a basis for the position, is insufficient. Additionally, although an employer may argue that it does not have money to pay an assessment, or that the assessment was not “fair,” these are not legal grounds and reasons for challenging the assessment.
  3. Incomplete Form: The Petition for Reassessment form must have all sections completed, be signedby an individual legally authorized to execute the appeal, and be notarized. A copy of the Notice of Assessment the employer is challenging, together with the Statement of Assessment (that is, pages 1 and 2 of the assessment notice), must be attached to the Petition for Reassessment for it to be considered complete. Appeals may be dismissed for incompleteness.
  4. Misdirected/Improperly Addressed: An employer must file a Petition for Reassessment with the UCTRO, at the address indicated on the instructions that accompany the Notice of Assessment. The employer must also send OUCTS a copy of the appeal at the same time. As emphasized above, the UCTRO and OUCTS are distinct offices; service upon one does not constitute service upon the other. Although not required, an employer filing a Petition for Reassessment may wish to consider sending the appeal by Certified Mail or a common carrier that provides a means for tracking the mailing and proof of delivery to the appropriate program area.

If an employer avoids the common errors above, the merits of its case may be considered and a formal hearing may be scheduled.


UC Issues Update is published by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry on a quarterly basis. Questions, comments and feedback can be sent via email to uc-news@pa.gov. General UC Tax information is available by calling 717-787-7679 or outside the Harrisburg area, toll free 866-403-6163 from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM If you have questions regarding UC benefit charges to your account, please call 717-787- 4677 from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM. If you suspect fraud, report it online at www.uc.pa.gov under "Report Fraud," or contact 800-692-7469.

Auxiliary aids and services are available upon request to individuals with disabilities. Equal Opportunity Employer/Program