This week, we continue our year-long Unemployment Vocabulary series with the concept of “able and available.”

Let’s face it. If you don’t work in the unemployment industry, some of the terminology may be hard to follow, but it’s important to know the “lingo” to understand what’s going on within your company’s unemployment program.

So what does “able and available” mean?

When an unemployment claim is filed, the primary focus is generally placed on the reason for the claimant’s separation. In other words, why they are no longer working. It is generally known that the reason for the claimant’s separation from employment is a major factor that will influence the state’s determination about whether or not to allow the payment of unemployment benefits.

However, the state actually looks at some additional factors when determining whether or not benefits are actually paid to a claimant. In order for a claimant to collect unemployment (even if they were laid off through no fault of their own), they must demonstrate to the state that they are able, available and actively seeking work. Let’s look at those concepts individually.

To be “able” to work means that the claimant is physically capable of performing the type of work for which they are trained. This factor often comes into play when someone is no longer working due to an injury or medical condition. While that person may have a desire to work, if they are not physically able to work, they will not meet the state’s qualification to collect unemployment. This is not a black and white issue, and the state will consider many factors including whether the claimant was medically cleared for modified duty. The state will also consider whether the employer was willing to accommodate medical restrictions among other things.

In addition to being able to work, claimants must demonstrate that they are “available” to accept work in order to be granted unemployment. For example, if a parent refuses work in order to stay home with their children, they are not demonstrating that they are available to work. Related to this issue is the requirement that unemployment claimants be “actively seeking work”. Most states have work search requirements whereby the claimant must provide information regarding jobs that they have applied for on a weekly basis to show that they are actively working to gain employment. Failure to meet work search requirements can result in benefits being postponed or denied.

Many times, even if a claimant is allowed benefits based on the reason for their job separation, they will be denied benefits due to an “A&A issue” (meaning they failed to demonstrate that they are able, available and actively looking for work). This is good news for employers whose unemployment accounts are often not charged for all or part of the liability on an unemployment claim when claimant benefits are reduced or denied due to an A&A issue.