Unemployment Compensation (UC)
The unemployment compensation system is designed to ease the transition period from one job to another when a worker loses a job through "no fault of his/her own." Workers and their employers pay taxes into the unemployment compensation system to support unemployment benefits.
*The best way to find out if you are eligible is to apply.*
After filing an application for UC benefits, there are three basic steps to determining eligibility for unemployment compensation.
- Financial Eligibility The first step is determining whether you are eligible financially. In other words, did you earn sufficient wages from an employer covered by PA UC Law? Certain types of employment are exempt. After you file, you will receive a notice of financial determination indicating whether you are financially eligible.
- Benefit Eligibility If your wages make you financially eligible, the second step involves the nature of your job loss, or separation. In other words, are you out of work through no fault of your own? This decision is based on the information you supply when you file for benefits, and information collected from your former employer.
- Maintaining Eligibility and Requalifying for Benefits The third qualifier to receiving UC benefits involves meeting various tests on a week-to-week basis. For example, you must be able and available to accept suitable work, not refuse work when offered without good cause and participate in reemployment services if required.
Other important eligibility considerations.
Reasonable Assurance for School Employees: There are special eligibility rules for employees of schools and other educational service agencies.Overpayment of Benefits Receiving UC benefits to which you are not entitled may result in reducing or removing future benefit entitlement until repaid.
A person who has recently been separated from his or her employment due to layoff will be eligible for unemployment compensation benefits if they have sufficient earnings. Workers who are fired or who quit may be eligible as well.
- Fired - A person who has been fired should be eligible for UC unless they were fired for "willful misconduct." This means that the employee knowingly did something against the company's best interests or violated a rule or policy. Incompetence, personality conflicts, and sickness are NOT considered willful misconduct and should not disqualify a person from UC. Generally a worker must have been warned about violations and continued to commit them for an offense to be ruled willful misconduct.
Quit - To receive UC after quitting a job a worker must prove that s/he had no other choice but to quit their job. S/he must have a "necessitous and compelling reason" for quitting. Health reasons are the best reasons to quit and still be able to collect. A claimant must also show that s/he made all reasonable efforts to maintain the employment. These efforts include speaking with a supervisor or human resources personnel in an attempt to rectify whatever situation forced the resignation. Proving eligibility for UC after quitting is fairly rigorous. You must show that it was necessary for you to quit and you acted as a reasonable person in trying to maintain your employment.
- Able and Available - Remember, however, that a person must be able and available for work full time at the time that s/he collects UC. For instance, if you become ill and cannot work at any job at all, you are not eligible to collect UC for the weeks you are ill. However, you can be limited to light duty and still be eligible. You do not have to be able to do the job that you stopped working- just be able to do some kind of work.
- Earnings - A person's financial eligibility depends upon his/her earnings during the first four of the last five completed quarters. This is your "base year". It does not include the current quarter in which you are applying or the previous quarter. The chart on page 8 will give the months included in your base year, depending on the month in which you apply. This base year system does not count your most recent earnings, so if you are found financially ineligible you should re-apply in the next quarter, when additional earnings would be counted. The minimum earnings requirements are as follows:
- at least $800 in the highest quarter of your base year
- at least $1320 in total wages for your base year
- a minimum of 16 weeks of earnings over $50 in your base year (this doesn't include the current or previous quarter)
- sufficient wages in your total year relative to your wages in your highest quarter, know as qualifying wages.