Under What Circumstances Do Temporary and Seasonal Employees Qualify for Unemployment?

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Not all of us work year-round jobs—maybe you own a strawberry picking farm and you hire employees for a defined, often short, period of time. The question remains: are your seasonal and temporary employees eligible for unemployment? The option to allow seasonal and temporary employees to collect unemployment differs from state to state, but there are some basic rules and regulations that apply in most situations.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the employee must meet the state requirements for time worked and wages earned during the "base period." (Typically, this refers to the "first four out of the last five completed calendar quarters prior to the time that your claim is filed"). In other words, the duration of employment directly affects eligibility. For example, if you hire a temporary employee and let them go a week later because he or she is incompetent, that employee will not be eligible for unemployment.

Keep in mind that the reasons for unemployment factor into eligibility. If you are unemployed through no fault of your own, you must be actively searching for work during the period of your unemployment in order to qualify.

An article on unemployment eligibility on Findlaw.com shares the general conditions for qualification:

  • The individual is a U.S. citizen or can provide proof of the legal right to work in the United States
  • The individual was employed for a certain period
  • The individual earned a certain amount in wages before becoming unemployed
  • The individual is available for work immediately
  • The individual is physically able to work

When it comes to independent contractors, the requirements change. The U.S. Small Business Administration states that, "Independent contractors are essentially self-employed individuals who often welcome seasonal or part-time positions. [...] It's important to note that independent contractors are hired by you and not employed by you. As such, you aren't required to provide benefits, withhold tax/Medicare/Social Security, or pay unemployment taxes."

On a more exciting note, an article by Chad Halvorson of Wheniwork.com provides several solutions businesses can offer their seasonal employees in order to keep them coming back year after year and/or to help them avoid filing for unemployment:

  • If your business runs at a reduced rate during the off-season, you may consider keeping these employees on part-time, (whether you choose to lower their pay during this time is up to you). Most employers don't realize this is an option—as long as you continue to pay at or above minimum wage, lowering pay is allowed...
  • If you're really fond of your employees, you could assist them in finding off-season work by providing a great letter of recommendation or by searching the job market for a good fit for them.
  • If you're really really fond of your employees, consider offering them more-than-competitive wages during the peak-season so they may have a nice cushion to fall back on during the off season.
  • If you happen to "know a guy," perhaps you could bring the expert in to offer your employees financial training/advice on how to survive the off-season without a steady income.
  • Lastly, but most importantly, make your business an enjoyable place to work!

All in all, most of the research you conduct on this subject will tell you the same thing: check with your state department of labor to understand the laws that apply in your state. Once you have a grasp on that, you will know how to proceed with your seasonal and temporary employees!

If you find yourself a little lost or perplexed about any of the information mentioned in this post, do not hesitate to pick up the phone and give us a call! Our main line is 410.451.4202 and we are happy to answer any questions you may have.

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Guest November 19 2017
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