Most workers are familiar with the concept of full unemployment benefits, which provide temporary payments to employees who are out of work through no fault of their own. While exceptions exist, eligible employees are generally entitled to a percentage of their wages for a limited amount of time, such as six months. The idea is to provide temporary relief while the worker looks for a new job.
Partial unemployment benefits operate in a similar way. These benefits are designed primarily for workers whose hours have been cut or who have been forced to take a part-time job due to a lack of work.
Eligibility for Partial Unemployment Benefits
Each state runs its own unemployment benefit program, so the rules vary depending on where you live. Normally, you are eligible for partial unemployment benefits if you:
- work part-time rather than full-time through no fault of your own
- are able and available to work full-time, and
- satisfy your state’s minimum earning or work requirements.
The key is that you cannot work part-time rather than full-time by choice. For example, you will not be eligible for benefits if you voluntarily cut your hours because you want to spend more time with your family or decide to go back to school.
As far as minimum earnings and work requirements go, you need to check the law of your state. Note that the eligibility requirements are normally the same as those for full unemployment benefits. Typically, you will need to show that you worked a minimum amount of time, earned a certain amount of money, or both.
In most, but not all, states, the minimum time period you must have worked in order to be eligible is 12 months.
Calculating Partial Unemployment Benefits
To figure out your partial unemployment benefit amount, most states use your average weekly wage to calculate the weekly benefit you would receive if you were fully unemployed. Typically you'd receive from half to two-thirds of your average weekly wage in full unemployment benefits.
Once your full unemployment benefit amount is determined, you subtract some percentage of that amount—for example, 20 percent (the amount varies by state)—from your weekly wages. Then subtract that amount from the weekly full benefit to come up with your weekly partial benefit.
Example. Jack lives in Missouri and works part-time earning $102 per week. Based on his previous earnings, his weekly benefit amount for full unemployment is $279. To calculate partial unemployment benefit amounts in Missouri, you subtract $20 or 20 percent of the weekly benefit amount (whichever is greater) from the weekly wages of $102. That amount, called the deduction, equals $46.20 ($55.80 minus $102). Then, take the weekly full benefit amount of $279 and subtract the deduction to arrive at a weekly partial benefit of $232. (Missouri rounds down to the nearest dollar.)
Of course, the rules for calculating partial benefits vary by state. Consult your state labor department's website for further details.
Contact an Attorney
If you need legal help related to an application for unemployment benefits or filing an appeal, contact an experienced employment attorney.