HONOLULU (KHON2) — Some employers say there are too many loopholes and unemployment benefits are too generous. It’s a combination that makes it impossible to find enough workers.
Businesses are calling for change.
Employers say one problem is that workers do not have to look for a job to keep getting their benefits. Before the pandemic they were required to do that at least three times a week.
“I believe in the beginning it was the right thing to do because there weren’t any jobs. Everybody was shut down so you had to uncheck that box,” said Greg Maples, chairman of the Hawaii Restaurant Association.
Restaurants have always had a hard time getting enough workers, but Maples says it’s never been this bad. He also points out that workers can also stay on unemployment if they say they don’t feel safe going back to work because of COVID-19.
“Those times are gone with vaccinations being readily available. People have choices now. Employers are much more educated about the work environment and what they need to do for their employees to keep them safe,” said Maples.
Employers also say the federal government adding $300 a week to state benefits adds to the problem.
States allow employers to report an employee who refuses to return to work. However, employers also point out that in some cases workers are only willing to come back part-time so they can keep getting benefits; employers are then reluctant to report the worker.
The state says since March 18, when the state started tracking it, 82 employers reported 89 potential refusals to work.
State Labor Director Anne Perreira-Eustaquio said in a statement: “We recognize that employers in Hawaii are having a difficult time finding workers. At the same time, workers are concerned about compliance with safety mandates in the workplace as well as the issue of childcare. These are among the many factors we’re assessing as we consider whether to recommend to Gov. Ige to formally reinstate the works search requirements for unemployment insurance.”
“There are restaurants on the North Shore that I know of that are now closed two and three days a week because they can’t get staffing,” said Maples. “But on the four or five days they’re open, they’re at max capacity they’re so full.”
The labor department is meeting with the governor this week. KHON will follow up and let you know what happens.