How Long Do I Have to Work to Qualify for Unemployment in Illinois?

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The Illinois Department of Employment Security sets eligibility standards for receiving unemployment benefits. One of the criteria, based on guidelines from the federal government, is your recent employment history as part of an effort to ensure you have "workforce attachment." In other words, the federal government and state governments want unemployment benefits to serve as assistance for people between jobs rather than as a form of charity or long-term aid.

Misconceptions

  • No minimum duration of employment is in effect when you put in a claim for unemployment benefits in Illinois. Instead, the state examines your employment earnings during what it calls your base period. Your base period is a 12-month period, specifically the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters. The state requires you to have made $1,600 during the base period as of 2011, including $440 outside your highest-earning quarter. The amount of time you need to earn these amounts is the amount of time you have to work to qualify for unemployment benefits.

Alternative

  • To increase your chances of qualifying for unemployment benefits, Illinois considers an alternative base period if you do not gain eligibility through your earnings during the usual base period. You instead can qualify by earning the required amounts -- $1,600 as of 2011, including $440 outside your highest-earning quarter -- during the four most recently completed calendar quarters rather than the first four of the most recent five.

Coverage

  • Your employment during your base period must be in insured work for your wages to count as credits toward unemployment benefits. Insured employers are those who, as required by law, pay taxes into the unemployment benefits program. Most forms of employment in Illinois are insured. Examples of uninsured employees are some agricultural workers, some domestic workers, employees covered by the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act, immediate family members of their employers, insurance agents and commissioners who receive pay exclusively as commissions, elected officials, and participants in government-funded work training programs.

Considerations

  • You might face a disqualification period from unemployment benefits eligibility in Illinois if you have quit your job without good cause, received a discharge for misconduct or turned down an offer of full-time work. In these instances, you again must work long enough to earn a specified amount of income. Specifically, you must earn your weekly unemployment benefits amount, as calculated by the state, in each of four weeks. After earning that amount, you must lose the job through no fault of yours to be eligible for unemployment benefits.

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