Unemployment claims and COVID-19 vaccination requirements
My employer has a policy that requires employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment. Will I be eligible to collect unemployment benefits if I resign due to the policy or if I get terminated for not complying with it?
Although the Department of Unemployment Assistance decides all unemployment claims on a case-by-case basis, as a general matter, employees who are separated from employment for failing or refusing to comply with an employer’s requirement that employees maintain COVID-19 vaccination will not be eligible to collect unemployment benefits.
What is a work search requirement?
An important part of unemployment insurance is to become re-employed by actively searching for a full-time job. Work search requirements will be reinstated for claimants effective the week of June 15, 2021. Claimants will be required to attest each week that they are completing at least three work-search activities per week and provide proof of work search activity to the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) if requested. Under the work search requirements, claimants will need to keep a detailed written log of their work search activities. Claimants may also be called upon to attend a Career Center related activity and will be required to bring printed completed copies of their work search activity logs.
What do I need to do to meet my work search requirement?
You are required to conduct an active search for work each week that you request benefits. You must complete at least 3 work search activities per week. You must certify for benefits weekly, including responding to the question regarding work search activities. You may complete your “Weekly Certification” online or over the phone. See step-by-step instructions for completing your "Weekly Certification" online. If you report that you are not doing at least 3 work search activities per week, you may be denied benefits for that week.
While collecting Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits, it is your responsibility to keep a detailed written log of your work search activities. You may be called upon to attend a Career Center related activity and may be required to bring your work search activity logs. You may also be asked to provide your work search information to DUA upon request and must keep proof of work search documents for 1 year after you stop requesting benefits. You should not mail the work search logs to DUA unless requested.
Work search requirements have been reinstated. Watch this video to learn what this change means for you.
What counts as a work search activity?
- Registering for work and reemployment services with a MassHire Career Center
- Completing a job application in person or online with employers who may reasonably be expected to have openings for suitable work
- Mailing a job application and/or resume, as instructed in a public job notice
- Making in-person visits with employers who may reasonably be expected to have openings
- Sending job applications to employers who may reasonably be expected to have openings for suitable work
- Interviewing with potential employers in person or by telephone
- Registering for work with private employment agencies or placement services
- Using the employment resources available at MassHire Career Centers that may lead directly to obtaining employment, such as:
- Obtaining and using local labor market information
- Participating in skills assessments for occupation matching
- Participating in instructional workshops
- Obtaining and following up on job referrals from the MassHire Career Center
- Attending job search seminars, career networking meetings, job fairs, or employment-related workshops that offer instruction in improving individuals' skills for obtaining employment
- Using online job matching systems, including the Massachusetts One-Stop Employment System (MOSES)
- Reporting to the Union Hall, if this is your primary work search method
- Using other job search activities such as reviewing job listings on the internet, newspapers or professional journals, contacting professional associations, networking with colleagues or friends
How do I keep track of my work searches?
There’s a useful “work search log” available on our website. It’s very helpful and we recommend that you use it. For every work search activity, be sure to write down:
- Date of contact
- Position and pay rate
- Company and contact information, so we can verify your activity
- How you contacted them
- The results of that activity
What if I need help finding a job?
Claimants who need assistance looking for their next job are encouraged to contact their local MassHire Career Center. MassHire Career Centers offer unemployed workers a wide array of reemployment services and tools that will assist them in preparing for their next employment opportunity. Claimants can contact a MassHire Career Center nearest them by visiting the Career Center's website or calling their local Career Center. Claimants can locate a MassHire Career Center near their home by using the MassHire Career Center locator here.
Claimants can a search for available jobs on MassHire JobQuest, which includes remote work opportunities.
What if I find part-time work?
While searching for a job, you may have an opportunity to work part time or temporarily. This helps to keep your skills current and you may still be eligible for part of your benefit payment.
If you do any work while receiving unemployment benefits, you must report it when filing for your weekly benefit payment. This includes all part time work or paid training. You must report all the work you did the previous week, even if you have not yet been paid for it.
If you're working part-time while receiving a partial UI benefit, you are still required to engage in three work search activities each week.
I have a return to work date. Do I need to complete my work search activities?
If you have a definite return to work date and it is within four weeks of the date you are requesting benefits, you are not required to complete work search activities. If your return to work date is more than four weeks away, you are required to continue your work search activities.
I am in a training or education program. Do I need to complete my work search activities?
If you are in an approved Section 30 program with DUA, you are not required to complete work search activities. If you are in a training or education program that has not been approved under Section 30, you are required to complete work search activities. More information on Section 30 can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/service-details/training-opportunities-program-section-30
What happens if I don’t complete 3 work search activities?
In order to be eligible for benefits, you must complete this requirement. If you do not, you will not be eligible for benefits for that week.
The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) below aim to help claimants accurately answer questions in the UI weekly certification: “Did you earn part-time wages (not from military service or self-employment)?” and “Have you returned to work full time during week listed above?”
What does “full time” mean in this context?
There is no fixed number of hours that constitute full time employment. If you are employed but still available for and actively looking for additional work and making less than 133% of your unadjusted weekly benefit, you are most likely not working full time unless:
during the week listed above, you worked as many hours as your co-workers employed in similar positions; and
the number of hours that you worked in the week listed above is widely accepted by employers and employees throughout your industry, even at different workplaces, as a “full-time” schedule for those employed in similar positions.
There is no universal standard for what counts as “full time” employment across all industries and places of employment. The specific circumstances of your employment will determine whether you are working “full time.” A single employer’s classification of a position as “full-time” or “part time” is not enough to classify full-time employment.
If the hours you worked during the week you are certifying for do not meet the conditions above, you should respond:
- “Yes” to the question, “Did you earn part-time wages (not from military service or self-employment)?” and;
- “No” to the question, “Have you returned to work full time during week listed above?"
These answers will assist in preserving your potential eligibility for continued partial benefits.
Do I remain eligible for benefits if I am not working “full time?”
If you are not working a “full-time” schedule of hours (see question above), you may be classified as “partially unemployed,” and you may be entitled to receive reduced benefits during any period in which you remain in partially unemployed. Additionally, your eligibility for partial benefits is subject to an earnings test and a work search requirement.
If your earnings exceed 133% of your unadjusted weekly benefit, then you do not qualify for partial benefits, even if you are not working “full time.”
If your earnings do not exceed 133% of your unadjusted weekly benefit and you are not working “full time,” you are eligible to continue to receive partial benefits, subject to the normal eligibility requirements for all claimants including requirements that:
- you continue to actively engage in work search to secure additional hours of employment; and
- you remain able and available to accept suitable work when offered.
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