What to do if an Employee Refuses to Return to Work

What to do if an Employee Refuses to Return to Work

Refuses to Return to Work RS

We wanted to share some information with you regarding the issue some employers are facing with employees who are on unemployment. While the CARES Act made several changes to unemployment, the normal rules and processes still apply if an employee refuses to return to work. Employers should weigh the employee’s rights and carefully evaluate if the refusal is reasonable and visit with legal counsel when appropriate.


In Arkansas, the employer should call their local unemployment office with the name and social security number of the employee who is refusing to return to work. The local office will set an “issue and stop payment” on the claimant’s account until the issue is resolved. A Job Refusal Form is sent to both the claimant and the employer; once those are returned, the issue is adjudicated to determine whether the claimant had a valid reason to not return to work.

If your employees have figured out how many hours they can work in a week and still draw benefits, then that is an “Able and Available” (A&A) issue. Each week when the employee calls in, they are asked, “Are you able and available EACH day of the week?” If the employee calls in sick, they are not able and available and should not receive benefits that week. The local office will send an A&A form to both the claimant and employer. If the claimant answered yes to the A&A question but called in sick, then they have committed fraud that week.  

You can find the closest local office to you on the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services website here.


In Oklahoma, not returning to work when work is available could be considered “refusal to work” and designated as voluntarily terminating employment. This could potentially disqualify a claimant from receiving unemployment benefits. Employers may report this activity by emailing returntowork@oesc.state.ok.us or calling 405-962-7524. More information can be found on the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission website here.


As noted in the Small Business Association’s FAQ #40 regarding the Paycheck Protection Program, an employee that is offered in WRITING and refuses to return to work, will not count against the employer in the forgiveness limitation due to a reduction in employees (headcount limitation). This refusal must also be documented.

If you have any questions, please give us a call.