Laid Off from a Part-Time Job: Eligible for Unemployment?

If you work in a part-time job and are laid off, you may have difficulty finding out whether you're eligible for U.S. unemployment benefits, if you're looking around online. A range of issues affect people in this situation, and the way the laws are stated doesn't help clarify them much.

Unemployment Benefits Issues for Part-Timers

The basic principle of receiving unemployment benefits is the same for part-time workers as for full-time. As long as you lost your job through no fault of your own, you may be eligible.

For part-timers, however, the situation is less clear:

  • Unemployment eligibility is based on state law.
  • The standard requirement for unemployment benefits is working four out of the last five calendar quarters prior to the claim for benefits.
  • If a person is working less than 40 hours, he or she will likely receive a proportionate unemployment benefit.
  • Unemployment insurance is based on payments made by employers into a fund. If this payment was not made by an employer, you may be eligible for state funds set up to cover this situation, but it complicates your situation. 

How Part-Time Hours Affect Your Compensation

The situation during a layoff is that your unemployment is not your own fault. However, types of part-time work vary considerably, and if you are eligible, your hours of work may be the basis on which benefits are paid in your state.

If, for example, you only worked 2 days a week, you may be on a much lower benefit than the full-time rate.

State unemployment rates are calculated on the rates fixed by states, and they can vary considerably. The maximum benefit rate in New York, for example, is nearly twice that of Arizona. The proportionate rates are equally variable.

For example:

The maximum rate in State X is $200 per week for full-time workers. As a part-timer working 3 days a week, your entitlement could be 60 percent of that rate, at best. That's $120 per week, if you're eligible.

Your benefits may also be restricted in terms of extensions, although this is dependent on state laws, and you would need to make inquiries at your local Unemployment or Department of Labor Office to find out the rules.

There's a further complication in this situation, and it's a tough one. The state of New York, which has one of the highest rates of benefit, has a policy of reducing benefits by one quarter for every day worked. The problem is that a day's part-time work can cost more in benefits than part-time workers make in salaries. The day's work may be worth $60, and the benefit lost is worth $80. That's a real problem for people on low wages, because their pay will rarely match the benefits. If, in the example above, you were receiving $120, you may receive nothing after a few days of part-time work.

If you've been laid off, check the dollar values of benefit entitlements, as well as your eligibility, before you make any decisions.

Note: Check out CV Tips for more information about layoffs, termination, job hunting and resume writing.

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