What Are Partial Unemployment Benefits?

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Are you working part-time, despite wanting full-time work? Were your hours reduced? Depending on your situation and location, you may be eligible for partial unemployment benefits.

In some states, an unemployed worker can sometimes receive partial benefits if they work less than a full week and earn a certain amount of money—and if they meet other requirements.

Eligibility for Partial Unemployment Benefits

Partial unemployment benefits are available to both unemployed and part-time employees. Most people who collect unemployment are out of work, but partial unemployment benefits allow those who are still working to claim aid as well.

If your hours have been reduced or you are working part-time and cannot find additional work, you may be eligible for partial unemployment benefits. There are several circumstances that may make a person eligible for assistance:

  • A worker may be underemployed or working part-time as the only alternative to being laid off or made redundant.
  • A person who lost their full-time job or even one of two part-time jobs and was only able to find part-time or temporary work may also meet the requirements to receive benefits.

Eligibility for partial unemployment benefits is determined by state law.

Although benefit eligibility varies, most states agree that a worker who voluntarily chooses to cut back on hours or work part-time is not eligible for partial unemployment benefits.

Requirements for Collecting

The type of employment and number of working hours are not the only determinants for partial unemployment benefits.

Depending on the state, you must meet a minimum earning level or a certain number of hours worked before you are eligible for unemployment. For example, in New York State, workers must meet the following requirements:

  • You must have worked and earned enough wages in covered employment. 
  • You must be ready, willing, and able to work, and actively looking for work during each week in which you are claiming benefits.

To collect partial unemployment benefits in New York, you can work up to 7 days per week without losing all your benefits for that week, if you work 30 hours or fewer and earn $504 or less in gross pay excluding earnings from self-employment. Benefits will be reduced in increments based on the total hours worked for the week.

Again, your state laws will vary. Regardless of the specifics, these requirements are usually the same for all types of unemployment benefit initiatives. Finally, a person must be ready and able to work more hours.

 Check with your state unemployment office for information on eligibility for partial unemployment, how to report wages, and collecting benefits.

When Can’t You File for Partial Unemployment?

In general, voluntary reasons to reduce working hours are not sufficient for collecting partial unemployment. So, for example, these reasons likely won’t make the cut:

  • Cutting your working hours to return to school or acquire additional training.
  • Working a reduced schedule to accommodate childcare or other caregiving needs.
  • Quitting your full-time work and acquiring a part-time job that doesn’t pay as much as your previous employment.

Regardless, it may make sense to file anyway. Your state unemployment office will be able to tell you whether you’re entitled to receive benefits – and you never know until you try.

Figuring Out How Much Money You’ll Receive

Each state will determine your benefit payout based on several factors. Many state unemployment agencies have online calculators for eligible individuals to get an idea of their potential benefits.

Typically, the state determines a reasonable, sustainable, weekly value and then subtracts the amount you are already working each week.

Many states will allow benefit seekers to keep some of what they earn without reducing their benefit payout to encourage employment. The difference between the state’s initial determined value and your wages is your weekly partial unemployment benefit.

When a claimant receives partial benefits, the unemployment claim will be extended until the claimant receives the maximum benefit amount determined by the state, or until the benefit year ends, whichever occurs first.

How Unemployment Benefits Are Funded

State unemployment benefits are issued by each State Agency that focuses on employment. Both partial and regular unemployment benefits are funded by the employing company’s state tax withholdings based on employee wages. In other words, a fixed percentage of each employee’s wages are paid by the company.

While employers are not necessarily charged for unemployment benefits after the fact, they are notified when an employee files for an unemployment benefit.

This is to prevent fraud by giving the employer the opportunity to contest the claim in the case of misconduct, termination, or a change in roles. Employees cannot be fired for filing a partial unemployment claim. Check with your state unemployment office website for information on partial unemployment benefits in your location.

The information contained in this article is not legal advice and is not a substitute for such advice. State and federal laws change frequently, and the information in this article may not reflect your own state’s laws or the most recent changes to the law.