Can Per Diem Employees Collect Unemployment in Pennsylvania?

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Per diem, Latin for "each day," refers to workers employed on a day-to-day basis, without set hours. Nurses and substitute teachers often work on a per diem basis. In Pennsylvania, eligibility for unemployment benefits depends on the number of weeks worked, so certain per diem workers may file a claim if laid off. However, this does not apply to substitute teachers, who are considered seasonal workers under Pennsylvania law and ineligible for unemployment compensation.

Unemployment Eligibility

To qualify for unemployment in the Keystone State, you must have at least 16 "credit weeks" in the prior five quarters, known as the base year, along with earnings sufficient to qualify. The job loss must be through no fault of your own, referred to as a "qualifying separation." Claimants must be ready and able to accept suitable employment and cannot refuse such employment, if offered, and continue to receive benefits. The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, which oversees unemployment compensation, also offers an appeals process if you believe benefits were unfairly denied.

School Employees

Under Section 402.1 of the state's unemployment compensation law, school employees, including but not limited to substitute teachers, cannot receive unemployment compensation during the period between terms, holidays or vacation periods. This does not include school employees working year-round, such as administrators. If an applicant has both school and non-school earnings in a base year, and benefits are denied under Section 402.1, eligibility for the period denied must use only the non-school earnings. Should the school employee be eligible based on the non-school earnings, she may receive unemployment compensation during the denial time period, such as summer vacation.

Credit Weeks

As of the time of publication, workers receive credit weeks for a base year, consisting of any week within this time frame in which you earned at least $50. You cannot qualify for more than one credit week for each calendar week, or Sunday through Saturday. The total amount of unemployment compensation benefits received during the benefit year depends on the number of credit weeks you have in the base year and is referred to as "maximum benefit entitlement."

Appeals

If you work as a per diem employee, other than a substitute teacher, and your claim is denied, you may appeal the decision within 15 days of the denial. Both the claimant and the former employer receive copies of the unemployment determination decision regarding the acceptance or denial of benefits. Either party may request a hearing on the decision by an Unemployment Compensation appeals referee. If the appeal is filed after the 15-day limit, the referee decides whether it may go forward.

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