Posted By PayNW January 03, 2024

All Washington State employers will need to comply with new Occupational Code Reporting requirements before the year ends.

In 2019, state legislators approved a law that obligates employers to report Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) codes in the quarterly reports for unemployment insurance.

Washington SOC Code Reporting Overview

The Washington SOC draws from the current Standard Occupational system, which is a federal statistical standard. Federal agencies rely on the system to facilitate the classification of workers according to their occupations. 

Employers need to be familiar with the Washington SOC reporting requirements to avoid being on the wrong side of the law. 

Below is an overview of what Washington businesses need to know regarding SOC codes and reporting requirements.

What Are Washington SOC Codes?

As highlighted above, Standard Occupational Classification is a federal coding system.

Federal agencies and private businesses use SOC codes for classifying workers into occupational categories. It covers all occupations where work is done for pay or profit. The system covers occupations across public, private, and military sectors. 

The occupational data is typically used by: 

  • Employers for the purposes of setting salary scales and locating a new business 
  • Government program managers 
  • Industry and labor relations specialists 
  • Vocational training schools 
  • Students seeking career training 
  • Job hunters

The system developed by the U.S Department of Labor (DOL) provides information such as occupation definitions, national estimates, benefits, and demographic profiles. The DOL also provides a list of SOC codes via the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Washington SOC Classification and Coding Guidelines

The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides the SOC classification and coding guidelines to help employers effectively assign SOC codes and titles. 

Classification principles include: 

  • The SOC codes include work performed for pay or profit, including work performed in family-owned businesses where family members don't receive direct compensation.
  • A worker is classified under a SOC occupation code as per work performed and, in other instances, based on skills, knowledge, and/or training required to perform the work.
  • Workers under Major Groups from 33-0000 to 53-0000 who majorly perform supervisory duties are coded under the relevant category of a first-line supervisor.
  • Supervisors of workers in Major Groups from 13-0000 to 29-0000 are classified together with the workers they supervise, given they generally have the same work experience and activities as those of the supervised workers.
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau has the leading role of collecting and reporting data on all the U.S employment for the entire SOC Major Groups.
  • Workers that majorly perform planning and directing of resources are classified under Major Group 11-0000, whose duties may include supervising.
  • Apprentices and trainees are allocated to occupations in which they are being trained separately from helpers and aides who are in a different classification as they are not in training for their work.

Coding principles include: 

  • A SOC occupation code is to be allocated to a worker according to the work performed.
  • Licensed and unlicensed workers performing similar work need to be coded under a similar occupation (detailed) unless there's another definition given under the SOC.
  • Data collection and reporting agencies are expected to allocate workers to the most detailed occupation, if possible.
  • Workers in Major Groups from 33–0000 to 53–0000 who perform supervising roles that take up 80 percent or more of their hours are assigned codes as first-line supervisors. However, those who spend less than 80 percent of their time in supervisory activities in the same Major Group are coded with the workers they supervise.
  • Where workers working in one job could be coded in one or more occupations, they need to be coded to the most-skilled occupation. If there is no significant difference in skills requirements, workers are coded under an occupation where they spend the most time. Workers teaching in different levels, for example, elementary, middle, or secondary, should be coded in accordance with the highest level of teaching.
  • Where workers' activities are not defined under any distinct detailed occupation in the SOC structures, they should be assigned to the appropriate "All Other" occupation. The occupations can be found under the last occupation in a group with an ending code "9" and with an ending title with the words "All Other."

Washington SOC Resources

To help employers comprehensively learn about their new SOC reporting requirements, the Washington Employment Security Department (ESD) has provided several helpful resources, including webinars, important links, and more. 

Employers can also contact socreporting@esd.wa.gov for help.

Washington SOC Code Reporting Requirements and Timeline

The SOC code reporting began with the Fourth Quarter 2022 Report by employers. To be specific, the first quarterly reports had to be submitted during January 2023. 

The following is a timeline for the SOC code reporting dates from 2021 through 2024.

As of November 15, 2021: 

As of December 1, 2021, to the third quarter of 2022:

  • Users are to keep using the EAMS for the submission of quarterly reports. 
  • Users of the newer version of EAMS are allowed to use the new SOC code lookup tool to code each employee correctly. 
  • From mid-2022, users can access an upgrade of the newer version of EAMS, which can retrieve SOC codes entered in the last quarter. 

Beginning fourth quarter of 2022: 

  • All Washington state employers must report SOC codes

First quarter of 2023 through 2024: 

  • Employers must submit SOC codes when they submit their quarterly tax reports. Employers do not need to submit an additional report with SOC codes.
  • Employers do not need to re-enter SOC codes every quarter, as they can copy over the prior quarter's filing. However, employers do need to add codes for new employees and update codes for any employees who changed occupations from the previous quarter

Punishments for Non-Compliance

While the ESD has stated that "at this time, you will not receive a penalty for incorrect or incomplete SOC code reporting" employers should still ensure that they properly report SOC codes with each quarterly tax report.

What Next for Washington Employers

Washington State employers have to play a major part in meeting the reporting requirements with respect to the SOC codes.

Thankfully, the Washington ESD offers a myriad of resources and links to help companies stay up to date in time for the quarterly return filing and future upcoming dates, helping them stay compliant with Washington Payroll Laws.

If you are a Washington State business with more concerns and questions on Washington SOC codes, a Washington Payroll and HR company may be able to help.

Contact PayNW today, or get started with a demo

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