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Temporary layoffs, standby and partial unemployment

Workers may qualify for benefits with different requirements when they are affected by temporary layoffs or partial unemployment. This depends on whether the worker is eligible for standby or their employer participates in SharedWork.

  • Standby: Waives the job search requirements for benefits during a temporary layoff. Workers can apply in eServices within four weeks of their return-to-work date.
  • Partial Unemployment: Workers hired full time who have their weekly hours temporarily reduced by no more than 60 percent. Workers may qualify for benefits without job search requirements if they expect to return to full time work with their employer within four months.
  • SharedWork: A program that helps businesses prevent temporary layoffs and provides an alternate level of benefits, as compared to regular unemployment. Approved participants are not required to look for work.


Standby waives the job search requirements while workers are collecting unemployment benefits in the event of a temporary layoff when the employer plans to rehire a laid off employee (or group of employees).

You can request standby when you have a:

  • Probable return-to-work date with your current employer within four weeks (28 days) and your last day of work with that employer was within the last eight weeks. You can request approval for up to 4 weeks of standby.
  • New full time job with a new employer and your expected start date is within 2 weeks.

To request standby using your eServices account, click on your current UI claim and look under "I want to," then click on “request standby.”

Employers requesting standby

Employers can request standby for employees who have a probable return-to-work date within 8 weeks (56 days) of the date of the request, as long as you make the request within 8 weeks of the last day they worked with you

You can request standby for individual and multiple employees through:

  • The "Request for Separation Information" form we send when a worker has applied for unemployment benefits.


  • A letter emailed to esdgpuiintakeissues@esd.wa.gov or faxed to 800-301-1796. Include:
    • First and last name of each employee.
    • Claim ID of each employee.
    • Dates of the standby period.


  • Your eServices account.

ESD may grant an extension of standby for more than 8 weeks in a benefit year:

  • Due to a natural disaster or extreme and usual circumstances. Example: Employer needs to shut down to repair damage from a natural disaster or a fire at the business. We do not consider normal seasonal shutdowns to be extreme or unusual circumstances. 


  • If the employer makes a request in writing to systempolicy@esd.wa.gov and can show extraordinary circumstances. The request must include:
    • First and last name of each employee.
    • Claim ID of each employee.
    • Dates of the standby period.
    • An explanation of why your circumstance is unique and unusual compared to others in your industry.

ESD grants exceptions on an individual basis, typically because of severe circumstances outside of the employer’s control. 

The law that applies is WAC 192-110-015(2)(d).

Our decision

Workers and employers will receive a standby decision in the mail.

  • If approved, standby begins with the date we received the request.
  • If denied, the employee must look for work as required, but the requester can appeal our decision.

You may still qualify for benefits if standby is denied

Denial of standby does not mean you are denied unemployment benefits. It means that you will need to comply with the job search requirements.  Being allowed standby only waives the job search requirement to be eligible for benefits. 

Partial unemployment

Workers that have had their hours temporarily and consistently reduced week-by-week, such as when they have been furloughed, do not have to perform any job search requirements if they are considered partially unemployed and are able and available to accept any work offered by their employer.

To qualify as a partially unemployed worker, you must:

  1. Have been hired to work full time;
  2. Have had your hours reduced each week by no more than 60 percent by your employer;
  3. Expect to return to full time work for your employer within four months.

You are required to report any work you do and pay you will earn for each week you claim benefits. Whether or not you are eligible for benefits on a weekly basis depends on how much you earn each week from your employer while partially unemployed.

For example, since unemployment benefits are determined on a weekly basis, full-time workers working one less day each week usually aren’t eligible for partial unemployment benefits because their weekly pay hasn’t been reduced enough.

If you are partially unemployed, you may apply for unemployment benefits and we will determine if you are eligible. Sign-in to eServices or create an account.


If you are losing your health coverage or are unemployed, you may be eligible for health plans on Washington Healthplanfinder. Find more information and free help.


Employers: avoid layoffs with SharedWork!

Check out Washington's SharedWork Program - it helps businesses and employers avoid layoffs by paying employees partial unemployment benefits when their work hours are reduced.