Unemployment benefits help out-of-work individuals provide for their material needs. In the U.S., each state administers its own unemployment compensation program. While the specific regulations of each program vary by state, many states do not permit individuals who are on unpaid leave to receive unemployment benefits. These workers can file a claim, but they may not be eligible for compensation.
Unemployment Compensation Overview
Most regular state unemployment benefit periods last for 26 weeks. Claimants must file regular claims to receive their benefits each week. Applicants for unemployment compensation must meet certain requirements regarding their earned income, the reason for their job loss and their availability to work.
Job Separation Requirements
To receive unemployment compensation, workers must be without employment. Most states require that unemployment claimants lose their job through no fault of their own. Typically, those who are fired for poor performance or are laid off due to lack of work qualify for benefits. However, workers who are terminated because of misconduct generally do not qualify for benefits. Those who quit without good cause are also ineligible.
Many companies use the term “unpaid leave” to refer to a leave of absence without pay. Workers may take unpaid leave to care for family situations, personal emergencies or medical conditions. During leave, employees do not receive wages but they may be eligible to continue receiving their employer-provided health benefits. Most companies allow employees to return to work after their leave is up.
Benefit Eligibility for Those on Unpaid Leave
Workers who take an unpaid leave of absence are still employees of their companies. Because they are not actually without employment, most states do not allow these individuals to claim unemployment benefits. In some states, though, the unemployment department conducts an investigation to determine whether a worker on unpaid leave qualifies for compensation.