Many part-time employees wonder if they qualify for their state's unemployment benefits if they lose their jobs. Even if your employer labels you a part-time worker, you can apply for benefits. Your state's department of labor will evaluate your eligibility based on your past wages. If you made enough money, it doesn't matter if you were considered part time. If you have gone from full-time work to part-time status, you may also collect unemployment through a loss-of-work claim. You won't receive full benefits, but you may receive partial payments.
Defining Part Time
The term “part-time employee” is a designation given to you by your employer, not the government. Companies decide who is a part-time worker and who is a full-time worker based on their own policies. Some companies consider anyone who works less than 40 hours a week a part-time worker. Others consider all of their hourly workers part time and their salaried workers full time. The company uses this designation to determine your eligibility for benefits, but it has no bearing on unemployment benefits.
Unemployment Based on Part-Time Work
Part-time employees go through the same eligibility process as full-time workers. Your state's department of labor will view your employment history for the past 18 months. Based on the state's rules for eligibility, your part-time work might not qualify you. If you have questions about the eligibility requirements for your state, contact its labor office (See Resources). If you aren't sure how much money you made during the previous 18 months, apply for benefits anyway. The department of labor will gather the necessary information and make a determination for you.
Receiving Partial Unemployment
For those who lose their full-time work and must work part-time hours, it's possible to collect unemployment for the loss of work. You apply for your benefits as someone who is totally unemployed. Then you report the amount of money earned each week when you certify for benefits. The department of labor calculates your weekly benefits and deducts the amount you earned through part-time work. The rest, if any, will be distributed to you through an unemployment payment. Check with your state's labor office if you have questions about your specific state's rules regarding partial unemployment benefits.
Penalties for Not Reporting
If you're working part time while collecting unemployment benefits, you must report your earnings for each week to the labor department. If you don't, it's a crime. You'll be forced to pay back any benefits wrongly earned. Your state can also assess you penalty weeks, which are weeks that you're entitled to unemployment but won't receive payment as a punishment for intentionally concealing income. In some extreme cases, your state can prosecute you for insurance fraud and you'll receive jail time or hefty fines.