Doing temp work is a common way to make ends meet when you are between jobs. In most states, once you register to work through a temp agency, that agency becomes your employer of record. The agency is responsible for finding you regular job assignments. Unfortunately, there are some things the temp agency may not tell you when it comes to collecting unemployment benefits. For this reason, it's important to educate yourself before accepting a temporary assignment.
Yes, You Can
If the agency fails to find you another assignment, it is possible to collect unemployment benefits after your last assignment ends. You can also collect unemployment while working the temp job, depending upon the amount you are paid for the temp assignment. Most state unemployment security commissions have unemployment benefits calculators that allow you to calculate how much you qualify to receive while working your temp job.
The Determining Factor
There are factors that can prevent you from collecting unemployment benefits, including whether you quit your job. With temp jobs, this test is tricky, because you can be labeled a job quitter and not know it. The secret is that you must continually call the agency to see if temp assignments are available. If you neglect to call daily, the agency can say you quit. As such, make it your duty to call every single day to ask whether a job assignment is available. Keep a paper trail by documenting the date and time you called, as well as the person you spoke with. This documentation comes in handy if the agency tells the unemployment office you failed to call in.
Don't Wait Too Long
Unemployment benefits are calculated based on the amount of wages you earn during the 12 to 15 month period leading up to your unemployment. This period of time is referred to as your “base period.” It's important to keep regular job assignments during the base period. As soon as the assignments become irregular, file for unemployment. If you wait too long, it lowers the amount of money earned in your base period, which may disqualify you from receiving benefits.
Word of Caution
There are instances where an individual may collect unemployment before working a temp job and receive reduced benefits after working a temp job. For instance, you may receive $400 per week before working with the temp agency and only receive $150 per week afterward. That's a major reduction in benefits. To prevent this from happening, only accept temporary job assignments that have compensation comparable to your last steady job. If you take a lower paying job, the wages from that job will be calculated as base period wages. The good news is that the unemployment office only requires you to accept “suitable work.” Suitable work includes job assignments that are not illegal and that have wages equal or comparable to the previous job you lost. If the unemployment office asks why you turned down an assignment, explain how the assignment was “unsuitable.”
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