Business

Guidance and resources for employers and business owners.

Good to Know

Track the local and statewide economic impacts of COVID-19 on the state’s new Economic Recovery Dashboard.
Sign up for the weekly business and worker newsletter.
Ask about Safe Start plans, worker safety, unemployment, sick leave, and more. You may also file a complaint against a business.
A collection of information for employers and workers in the agriculture industry.

Safe Start plans and guidance for reopening

On May 29, Gov. Jay Inslee released an updated, county-by-county based “Safe Start” reopening plan for resuming recreational, social and business activities.

Businesses are not authorized to open until they are able to meet all safety criteria. As counties and industries reopen under the “Safe Start” plan, business and worker guidance will be posted to the Governor’s website.

Resources from State Agencies

Department of Labor and Industries (L&I)
L&I is for workplace safety and rights for workers. They will also serve as an enforcement arm of Safe Start restrictions.

Employment Security Department (ESD)
ESD is offering relief to affected workers and information to businesses statewide that may help them employ and retain their workers.

Department of Health (DOH)
DOH is a primary source for data on the coronavirus and guidance to slow the spread.

Department of Commerce (COM)
Commerce is responding to the crisis by arranging funding, grants, loans, and resources for Washington businesses.

Insurance Information
The Office of the Insurance Commissioner has information about insurance coverage businesses need to protect themselves from potential losses.

Guidance from OIC for businesses about keeping employees on their health insurance plans.

For information employers can share with employees about the health insurance options available through Washington Health plan finder (includes free and low-cost options for those who will or have lost employer-sponsored coverage), please visit the Washington Health Benefit Exchange Coronavirus FAQ Page.

Workplace Safety

Facial Covering Guidance
Beginning June 8, all employees will be required to wear a cloth facial covering, except when working alone in an office, vehicle, or at a job site, or when the job has no in-person interaction.

Employers must provide cloth facial coverings to employees, unless their exposure dictates a higher level of protection. Employees may choose to wear their own facial covering at work, provided it meets the minimum requirements.

Beginning July 7, businesses must require all customers and visitors to wear a face covering and post signage about the required use of face coverings. Businesses must also post signage strongly encouraging customers and clients to wear cloth face coverings.

Safe Start Workplace Safety Requirements for All Employers
The Safe Start plan identifies 11 workplace safety requirements for all employers. The requirements generally encompass facial coverings, personal protective equipment, physical distancing, hand sanitation, surface sanitation, employee education, policy for ill employees, and legal compliance.

Industry-Specific Safe Start Guidance
The Safe Start program will reopen the state on a county-by-county, industry-by industry basis. Businesses should monitor the following resources for guidance applicable to their location and industry.

General Workplace Safety
State law requires employers to provide a safe and healthy workplace, and it protects workers from retaliation. These basic obligations remain in effect during this pandemic.

Mental and emotional well-being of employees

The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting everyone. Your employees are likely experiencing new levels of stress and anxiety or grappling with feelings of isolation and depression. You might notice employees are more irritable, forgetful or have difficulty focusing. This is a normal response to the kind of crisis situation we've been experiencing. These resources can help you support your employees as they return to work.

If your company offers an employee assistance program, be sure to remind your workers how to make use of that benefit.

Worker Benefits

Unemployment
Workers affected by the pandemic may be eligible for unemployment benefits. Regular unemployment benefits are available for workers experiencing layoffs or reduced hours through no fault of their own. Expanded unemployment options may cover many workers ineligible for regular unemployment.

You may have questions about resuming your operations and bringing employees back to the workplace. For example, can employees refuse offers of work and continue to collect unemployment benefits? In some situations, the answer may be “yes”.

SharedWork may be a suitable option. Businesses that can reduce work hours by 10-50%, instead of laying off an employee, keep that worker employed while remaining eligible for shared work and CARES Act benefits.

WorkSource Washington is a powerful job-match site for workers searching for the right opportunity and employers looking for the right candidate. Employers can post unlimited job postings, automatically rank applicants, and compare candidates side-by-side. Job seekers can use advanced search tools to browse thousands of openings.

Paid Sick Leave
Workers may use accrued paid sick leave if their employer is shut down due to a health-related reason, including COVID-19.

Additionally, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requires certain employers to provide workers with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19.

Paid Family and Medical Leave
Paid Family and Medical Leave is available to workers that require time off to care for themselves or a family member due to a qualifying event, such as a serious health condition or a new baby. This benefit also applies to military deployments and returns from deployment.

Federal Grants, Loans, Stimulus

CARES Act
The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act mobilized a number of programs to support the American economy.
Provisions included paycheck protection for workers, small business debt relief, economic injury disaster loans, small business counseling and contracting, and tax provisions.

Paycheck Protection Program
The Paycheck Protection Program is a forgivable loan issued by the U.S. Small Business Administration to help businesses keep their workforce employed during the pandemic.

Federal Economic Impact Payments
Many American families received federal stimulus checks, a provision of the CARES Act.

Small Business Administration

Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Taxes, Fees and Insurance

Taxes and Fees
Some employers forced to lay off employees due to the pandemic have expressed concern about experience ratings. See this ESD FAQ to learn about their policy.

A recent emergency rule has appointed the Department of Labor and Industries as an enforcement arm of the Safe Start plan. L&I may cite and fine business that operate in violation of the law.

Guidance for State Agencies and Local Governments

Technical Assistance for Small Business

FAQs

On March 18, the governor called on all public utilities in Washington to suspend disconnection tariffs for nonpayment during this emergency. He also ordered them to waive late fees for customers who are out of work or offer customers payment plans and expand bill-assistance programs for customers who are economically affected by this emergency. Learn more on the governor’s Medium account.

Check with your county treasurer's office about potential property tax deadline changes for your county. You can find COVID-19 information and links to county governments on the Washington Association of County Officials website.

Find out more information about available resources. This information is changing rapidly, so check back frequently, as we will add new resources regularly.

Final paychecks must be paid on or before the next regularly scheduled payday. Employers cannot withhold a final paycheck if the employee does not turn in keys, uniforms, tools, equipment, etc. There are specific rules for deductions taken from a final paycheck.

Severance, personal holidays and vacation time are voluntary benefits. Employers can choose to pay out these benefits on a final paycheck. If your employees believe they are owed any of these agreed-upon benefits, they can contact an attorney or file in small claims court.

Employers must follow separate requirements for paid sick leave balances.
We encourage you to learn about resources available to help keep your business open.