Can Hourly Workers Collect Unemployment?

woman hand holding calculator counting for credit card debt with financial bills and phone on desk
••• Doucefleur/iStock/GettyImages

Unemployment benefits provide temporary relief to the unemployed through state-run benefit programs. Not every unemployed person can collect these benefits because there are eligibility requirements that each claimant must meet. While there are exclusions for certain types of work -- such as church employees, teachers on breaks and commissioned workers -- hourly employees aren’t excluded from unemployment benefits.

Hourly Vs. Salaried

Hourly employees are paid a certain amount per hour while salaried employees are paid by the year, regardless of how many hours they work overall. Salaried employees are often higher ranking than hourly employees and have more work responsibility. In some companies, salaried employees are entitled to more benefits than hourly employees, including vacation pay, sick leave and stock options.

Read More: Federal Labor Laws for Salaried Employees

Unemployment Eligibility

Regardless of what the company’s individual benefit policies may be, hourly employees are eligible for unemployment benefits. Since unemployment is regulated by the state as opposed to the company, it’s not a benefit that the company can take away based on the employee’s pay status. Still, each state has a number of eligibility requirements an hourly employee must meet before collecting benefits.

Eligibility Requirements

Each state runs its own unemployment benefits program so it's possible for slight variations between states. The best place to get the most accurate information about your state's eligibility requirements is your state's labor office. However, you generally must be unemployed through no fault of your own. You also need sufficient previously-earned wages to qualify for benefits, as determined by state law. Finally, you must be willing and able to perform new work, as shown by your active job search.

Calculating Benefits

Once the state determines that you qualify for benefits, it calculates your benefits in two amounts. The first is your weekly benefit amount and the second is the number of benefit weeks to which you're entitled, which determines the total amount of benefits you can collect per benefit year. Both of the numbers are based on the money you earned during the 15 to 18 months before you filed for a claim. Since hourly employees’ schedules -- and therefore incomes -- can change from week to week, it’s an average of your previous pay.

Related Articles