Understanding your base period and benefit year

Learn how your base period and benefit year are used to determine your monetary eligibility for unemployment benefits.

How your base period is determined

The amount of unemployment benefits you may be eligible to receive is determined by wages paid to you during either your primary or alternate base period. The base period is defined by Massachusetts law.

Primary base period

The primary base period is the last 4 completed calendar quarters prior to the effective date of your claim (typically the Sunday of the week that you filed your claim). For most workers, the primary base period is used to calculate your maximum benefit credit, which is the total amount of benefits you are eligible to receive.

Alternate base period

The alternate base period is the last 3 completed calendar quarters and the period of time between the last completed quarter and the effective date of your claim. The alternate base period can only be used if:

  • You don't meet the minimum eligibility requirements using the primary base period
  • Using the alternate base period will increase your maximum benefit credit by 10% or more

How your base period wages are determined

Massachusetts employers are required to report wage information to the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) on a quarterly basis. This wage information is used to determine whether you have earned enough wages to qualify for unemployment benefits.

If you disagree with the wages reported by your employer

If you disagree with the wages reported on your Monetary Determination notice, you can provide proof of the wage amounts you are disputing by completing and returning the Wage and Employer Correction sheet that was mailed to you with your notice. DUA will review the information and make any necessary adjustments.

If it is determined that you have not earned enough wages under either the primary or the alternate base period, you have the right to file an appeal and present additional supporting documents at a hearing.

Your benefit year

Once your claim is established, it will remain open for one year (52 weeks). This period of time is called your benefit year. 

Your maximum benefit credit (the total amount of benefits you are eligible to receive) is available to you for the duration of your benefit year or until you have exhausted your maximum benefit credit. Once your benefit year expires, any unpaid benefits will no longer be available to you.

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