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Lori Kleiman
  August 24, 2017

Is Unemployment Really the Expense You Think It Is?


Unemployment expense is a line item in all businesses. Businesses often don’t realize that unemployment is an insurance product which covers the benefit to those that are unemployed. The business is only responsible for a small amount paid per employee as an insurance premium. As such, the cost to a business for a proper termination is not an overwhelming financial impact and should not be considered if it’s time to make a change.

How is unemployment calcluated?

Unemployment insurance differs greatly from one state to another. The program itself is mandated by the Federal Government, but regulated by the individual states. In HR Hacks, we provide a tool about unemployment and how to calculate the rate for your state, and specifically your employee population.

Evaluate your current unemployment rate. You can find this number by looking at the tax rate in your payroll system. If you are unsure, here is a great table with rates by state. The rate you pay is a combination of the range your state sets, and the salary cap for the tax.

If you have a great deal of turnover, your cost of  unemployment insurance will increase. Each state has a salary cap on the insurance, so the more people that are hired and starting at zero the higher your total expense at year end. Likely, you will have to pay unemployment taxes on some employees that do not stay with your company all year and contribute to your high unemployment.  For this reason, we recommend you to look at the total W2’s issued last year for analysis.

What can you do about unemployment insurance?

Fighting unemployment claims is a frustrating and time consuming activity. Consider the impact if you can reduce your rate by even 1%. If it is a significant number to your organization, we encourage you to engage the activities below. If the number is not a driver in your operation, then unemployment may not be worth a great deal of attention.

To reduce unemployment expense, consider these actions:

  • Improved hiring; check out a past blog post on recruiting.
  • Know the amount of time your state allows you to “test” an employee. This IS NOT your introductory period in your handbook. Many states will allow a period of time you can separate an employee and not be responsible for the unemployment.
  • Document the issues with performance and have employee sign notices of poor performance.
  • Provide a suspension without pay prior to termination.

Whether you determine unemployment tax is critical to your business or not, as a leader and/or HR professional, understanding how the number is calculated is an important part of running your business.

THIS IS HIGHLIGHTED IN HR HACKS – get your copy today!

Lori Kleiman is an HR expert who presents to business people and groups. Click here to see a video of Lori in action. If you’d like to have Lori keynote one of her HR presentations at your upcoming event, click here, or email Lori directly at lori@hrtopics.com!