On July 17, 2020, in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Georgian Ministry of Labor released updated emergency rules on unemployment benefits. The new rules came into effect on July 19 and apply until November 16, 2020 or until the department proposes and issues the following rules or guidelines.
Previous emergency regulations enacted in March 2020 required employers to file unemployment claims for all employees whose normal working hours and pay were cut due to the COVID-19 state of emergency
The most important change in the new rules concerns partial unemployment claims submitted by the employer, which the Ministry of Labor ordered in March 2020. According to the new rules, employers are no longer obliged to submit partial claims for part-time employees, their working hours and pay will be significantly reduced due to the COVID-19 emergency in the public health sector. Employers can choose to continue to submit partial claims for affected part-time employees, but are no longer obliged to do so. However, employers are still required to file partial claims for full-time employees whose hours and pay are reduced below the level of “full-time employment”, which is generally defined as more than 30 or more hours per week.
In addition, according to the new rules, employers are no longer obliged to submit partial claims for employees for whom the employer has offered to bring the employee back to work, restore the employee’s working hours and pay to the level before COVID, but the employee refuses to return to work.
Previously, workers who were otherwise not eligible for unemployment benefits were eligible for benefits if they had a full or partial reduction in working hours and fell into certain categories of people, including those who: (a) Quarantined or under the recommendation of a Healthcare professionals have been quarantined; (b) are 60 years of age or older; (c) have a recognized disease that makes them particularly susceptible to COVID-19; (d) are caregivers and live with a person who is 60 years of age or older or belongs to a risk group; and (e) are custodial parents or legal guardians of a minor whose school is closed due to COVID-19 and who cannot provide childcare. This provision has expired and has not been renewed.
The new rules retain the Ministry’s previous criminal provision that an employer may be responsible for paying the full amount of unemployment benefit if the employer does not declare partial unemployment for eligible workers. However, if an employer properly follows the ministry’s emergency rules, the employer’s unemployment account with the ministry of labor will not be charged any unemployment benefit paid to company employees due to the COVID-19 emergency, including partial entitlement benefits.
The urgency rule for charging fees for UI services is expected to expire on November 16, 2020, the date the public health state of emergency ends or when the U.S. Department of Labor lifts its guidelines to give states flexibility in how to do so Collection of benefits to grant entitlements, whichever comes first.
The new rules continue to override the normal job search requirements for workers receiving unemployment benefits.