How long must an employee work for an employer before he or she is able to collect unemployment?

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Typically, there is no set length of time an employee must work for a single employer to collect unemployment benefits. A few states have exceptions for workers who were employed for less than 30 days. In most states, however, eligibility for unemployment benefits depends upon how many hours the individual has worked, and how much income the employee has earned in his or her “base period,” regardless of how many different employers the individual may have had.

A base period is a one-year period, usually defined as the first four of the last five completed quarters. If the individual meets the required earnings amount (which will vary by state law) during that period, meets any state requirements for hours worked in the base period and has a qualifying termination reason, this individual will likely be eligible for benefits, regardless of whether or not the last employer will be chargeable.

For example, if Isabella worked for three different employers from January 2019 through March 2020, her base period is January 2019 through December 2019. All wages earned in that period will be used to qualify her for benefits. If she is found to be otherwise eligible, more than one employer may be found to be chargeable.

Employers should consult their state unemployment agency website for references detailing the eligibility for benefits requirements.


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