This week, we continue our series called “Unemployment Myth Busters.” There are a lot of common misconceptions about how unemployment works. We are tackling some of the most common and debunking the falsehoods related to unemployment.

Myth: Part Time Workers are Not Unemployed

One of the more confusing topics in the world of unemployment insurance is unemployment benefits for part time workers. State workforce agencies consider any worker who is not a year round, 40-hour-per-week employee to be “partially unemployed,” and therefore, potentially¬†eligible for unemployment benefits.

There are a few primary classifications of part time workers.

  • Regular Part Time: This is someone who works a consistent part time schedule.
  • On-Call, As-Needed: These employees work an inconsistent or unpredictable part time schedule.
  • Seasonal:¬†These employees may work full time hours, but only during certain times of the year. During the off-season, they are not scheduled for work or their hours are reduced.
  • Reduced Hours: These are employees who were hired to work full time but later had their hours reduced.

Whether a partially unemployed claimant is allowed to collect unemployment benefits depends on several factors that vary by state. The benefits that they collect are classified as “partial unemployment benefits” because they are reduced based on the wages earned by the part time worker. This is the state’s way of recognizing that they are not totally unemployed. Part time workers filing for unemployment are required to report the wages they earn every week. Often a part time worker might be technically “eligible” to receive benefits, but earns too much in their part time job to be entitled to collect.

Another important concept for employers to remember is that part time workers, just like claimants who are totally unemployed, must meet the state’s requirements to collect. These include demonstrating that they are able and available for work, accepting all suitable work that is offered and accurately reporting all hours worked and wages earned each week.

Also, for the staffing industry whose business model is built on assignment-based work, many states will take into consideration “failure to maintain contact” requirements. This means that the employee must actively reach out to the staffing agency to report themselves available for new work assignments. If they fail to do so, some states will consider them to have voluntarily quit. Other states will consider this an eligibility issue, meaning the claimant is not showing that they are “able, available and actively seeking work,” and will therefore not be allowed to collect.