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Will I be eligible for unemployment benefits if I just quit my job?

When an employee is terminated, depending on their work history, they may be eligible for unemployment benefits, however, what if you just decide to leave?

What to know about unemployment before quitting your job

The US job market has been running hot over the past couple years with the total number of nonfarm jobs finally surpassing where the US was before the pandemic. There are more jobs available than there are people that are unemployed making it a great opportunity for workers to try to find a better job.

Many workers have already done this during what has been called the ‘Great Resignation’. But leaving your job in search of greener pastures voluntarily can come with risks. For one you may not be able to claim any unemployment benefits.

To claim unemployment benefits in the United States the individual must be out of work through no fault of their own. Workers who were made redundant, and even those who were fired, are eligible to claim unemployment support.

“Generally, if you voluntarily resign your job, you’re not eligible for unemployment,” explains Paul Sonn, state policy program director at the National Employment Law Project. “It’s not something people who quit their jobs can count on.”

You could be eligible if you have a ‘good cause’ for leaving

For the majority of ‘Great Resignation’ outgoings, this means that they will not be eligible to claim unemployment support. However there are exceptions to the rule for those who chose to leave the job for ‘good cause’.

If you left the job because of safety concerns in the workplace, or because the company was attempting to force you out, you can still claim. However the eligibility requirements, like the unemployment benefits themselves, are governed at a state level. This means that the rules are different in different regions and there are often no precise guidelines the cover eligibility.

“It’s something decided on a case-by-case basis,” Sonn says. “You’d need to apply for benefits and explain the situation.”

However, here are a few circumstances in which an individual might have decided to leave a job and still be eligible to receive unemployment benefits while out of work:

Constructive discharge – If a work situation become so difficult or otherwise demanding that you feel like you are essentially being forced to quit, you can still claim.

Medical condition – The rules vary in different states, but most do allow employees with an illness, injury or disability to claim unemployment benefits if their condition is caused or aggravated by the work.

Domestic violence – In many states, employees who quit work due to reasons relating to domestic violence are able to collect benefits.

Provide care for a family member – If you leave the workplace to provide care for a family member then you should still be able to claim unemployment benefits. However the rules on eligibility for family members varies greatly between states.