I lost my job. Can I get Unemployment Insurance in Massachusetts?

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If you lose your job and it’s not your fault, you may be able to get Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits in Massachusetts. This weekly cash payment can help you pay your bills while you look for a new job. Unemployment benefits can also provide health insurance and job training. The Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) runs the program in Massachusetts.

The sooner you apply for UI, the better. The longer you wait, the higher the chances are that your benefits will be reduced.

Ready to apply for UI? See How to apply for Unemployment Insurance.

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Can I get Unemployment Insurance (UI)?

Getting UI usually depends on three things:

  1. How much money did you earn at your job?
  2. Why did you leave your job?
  3. Are you ready and able to get another job?

How much money did you earn at your job in the last year?

To get UI, you must have earned at least $6,000 in the last year, and you must have worked for at least 15 weeks in the last year (in most cases). You might be able to get unemployment benefits even if you only worked part-time.

The DUA looks at how much you earned during the time they call a “base period”. During the base period, you must have earned at least $6,000. You can find out your base period by looking at the table below.

Find your base period

If you apply for benefits in:You must have earned at least $6,000 in your base period
January, February, March, 2023From January 1, 2022 to December 31, 2022
April, May, or June, 2023From April 1, 2022 to March 31, 2023
July, August, September, 2023From July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023
October, November, December 2023From October 1, 2022 to September 30, 2023

Sometimes, the base periods listed above work out so that it looks like you cannot get unemployment insurance. Sometimes the DUA will use an “alternate base period” that gives a better idea of your most recent earnings. You can find out more about base periods and alternate base periods on the DUA’s webpage Understanding Your Base Period & Benefit Year.

Why did your job end?

Whether you can get UI also depends on the reason your job ended.

If your company laid you off, you should be able to get unemployment benefits.

If you quit, you may still be able to get UI. You will need to show you had a good reason to quit your job and that you took reasonable steps to try and keep your job.

If you were fired, you may be able to get UI, as long as you did not break any rules at work on purpose.

Are you ready and able to work, and are you looking for a new job?

The DUA only gives unemployment benefits to people who are ready and able to work. To get benefits, you must also look for work. To keep getting benefits, you must “certify” your job search every week.

Who cannot get UI?

Most workers in Massachusetts can get UI benefits, but some cannot. Workers who cannot get UI include:

  • employees of churches and some religious organizations,
  • independent contractors*,
  • some work-study students and student nurses,
  • real estate agents or brokers who work only for commissions,
  • insurance agents who work only for commissions, and
  • elected officials and policy advisors.

If you aren’t sure whether you are eligible to receive UI benefits, you can still apply. DUA will determine whether or not you are eligible. If you disagree with DUA’s decision, you can file an appeal.

* The DUA assumes that all workers are employees, even if your employer calls you an independent contractor or gives you a 1099 instead of a W-2. Your employer must prove to DUA that you are an independent contractor by proving all 3 parts of a 3-part test. DUA decides whether you are an independent contractor under that test, not your employer.

Can I get UI if I quit my job?

Maybe, if you had a good reason for quitting. There are 2 kinds of reasons the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) accepts:

  1. Serious job-related reasons, called "good cause attributable to the employing unit," or
  2. Serious or important personal reasons, called "urgent, compelling or necessitous reasons." 
     

Examples of job-related reasons

  • Unsafe or unhealthy working conditions, including dangerous working conditions or equipment;
  • A transfer to unsuitable work (a different kind of job that is not right for you);
  • An employer changes the job, such as giving you fewer hours, paying you less than before, or not paying you the minimum wage;
  • The change must be permanent, not just for a short time; or
  • Discrimination or harassment, including sexual, racial, or other unreasonable harassment.

Reasons like these are called "good cause attributable to the employer."

Examples of personal reasons

  • Your own declining health,
  • Union rules,
  • In very limited cases, a lack of transportation,
  • Leaving to care for a sick family member,
  • Domestic violence, or
  • Leaving to take care of unexpected and urgent problems with the childcare arrangements you have been using.

Reasons like these are called "urgent, compelling or necessitous reasons" for leaving work.

Try to solve the problem before quitting

In almost every case, you must try to solve problems with your employer before you quit your job. Even if you have a good reason to quit, you must show that you took reasonable steps to try and keep your job. 

If you are leaving work for personal reasons, try asking for a leave of absence first. If a leave of absence can help resolve the personal reasons, it is important to try asking for one. You may not be able to fix the problem or get a leave of absence, but it is important to try. 

You may be eligible for Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML). Check if you are eligible.


Important

If you need to quit because of domestic violence, or sexual, racial or other unreasonable harassment, you do not have to show anything. These are reason enough. You do not have to show that you tried everything you could to keep your job.


Did your employer force you to quit?

Sometimes workers do not want to leave their jobs but their employer does not give them any other choice but to quit. In this situation, you still may be able to get unemployment benefits if:

  • you left your job because you had a good reason to believe that
  • you were about to be fired; or
  • you quit after your boss gave you the choice of quitting instead of being fired.
  • You may need to show that you tried to fix any problems you had with your job or your employer before you left.

If you disagree with DUA’s decision, you can file an appeal.

Can I get UI if I was fired?

If you were fired, you may be able to get Unemployment Insurance (UI). Even if you were fired because you could not do the job, you can still get unemployment benefits.

But, your employer may try to show that they fired you for reasons that would make you ineligible for benefits.

If your employer shows they:

  • had rules that were fair,
  • had rules that you knew about, and
  • you broke the rules on purpose,

DUA may find that you are not eligible for benefits if it accepts your employer’s claims.

Also, your employer could show that you did something on purpose that caused serious problems for them. DUA may find that you are not eligible for benefits if it accepts your employer’s claims.

To prove that you broke a reasonable rule

Your employer must show that:

  1. They let you know you about the rule or policy;
  2. You knew you were breaking the rule when you acted;
  3. The rule is reasonable;
  4. You were able to follow the rule; and
  5. Your employer treats all employees who break the rule in a similar way.

To show that you purposely caused serious problems for your employer

Your employer must show:

  1. You acted the way you did on purpose, not for a reason outside your control;
  2. You knew your employer would not want you to behave the way you did; and
  3. You were trying to hurt the business.

If you disagree with DUA’s decision, you can file an appeal.

Can I get UI if I was laid off?

If you are laid off, you should be able to get unemployment benefits. The Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) will talk to you and your employer to find out if you can get benefits. Make sure you tell DUA your side of the story.

If you disagree with DUA’s decision, you can file an appeal.

What if I left my job because of domestic violence?

If you quit or lose your job because of domestic violence, you may be able to get unemployment benefits. You may need to explain to the DUA that you or your children are victims of domestic violence, and that you lost or quit your job due to the domestic violence.

You do not have to tell your employer about the domestic violence.

If you or your children have suffered domestic violence and if you are in danger right now, call 911. If you are not in immediate danger, you can call SafeLink at 1-877-785-2020 for help with all kinds of problems.

It is illegal for your employer to discharge, penalize, or threaten to penalize you if you have to take time off to testify in a criminal action if you are a victim of a crime.

To learn more, see the article Can I take time off from work to deal with domestic violence? and the video Unemployment insurance for survivors of domestic violence.

How much UI can I get?

Your weekly Unemployment Insurance (UI) amount is based on how much you earned for about one year before you stopped working. Usually, you can get about half of what you earned every week when you were working. The most you can get is $1,033 per week. This amount changes on October 1st of each year.

If you have children, and you provide more than 50% of their support, you may also get up to $25 per week for each child in your family who is:

  • under the age of 18, or
  • under 24 and a full-time student, or
  • cannot work because of mental or physical disabilities (there is no age limit).
     
How long can I get UI?

The DUA will pay you UI weekly for up to 26 or 30 weeks depending on the unemployment rate — the percent of people who are unemployed in Massachusetts.

If you go to a skills training program to help you get a new job, DUA may pay you for as much as 26 more weeks.

Sometimes, the economy gets so bad that many people cannot find work. So, the U.S. government grants “federal extensions” of UI benefits and pays for them. Some, but not all, people getting UI in Massachusetts may get more than 26 weeks of UI because of a federal extension.

What other benefits can I get in addition to a weekly cash payment?

Extended Unemployment Training Benefits (Section 30 Benefits)

You can get up to 26 extra weeks of Unemployment Insurance benefits while you attend a job training program approved by the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA). Learn more about “Section 30” or Training Opportunity Program (TOP).

Help with paying for training

Sometimes you can get federal funding for job training through your local MassHire Career Center. You need to contact a MassHire Career Center to find out if you are eligible for these funds. Find training programs near you.

Help with paying for college (Pell Grants)

You may be able to get a Pell Grant to help pay for college. The U.S. government has information about Pell Grants and other financial aid programs.

Health coverage

You may qualify for a Massachusetts Health Connector insurance plan, MassHealth, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Visit the MA Health Connector website or call 1-877-623-6765 (TTY 1-877-623-7773) Monday–Friday, 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM.

You can also call Health Care for All’s free helpline, 1-800-272-4232.

Paid leave

If you do not have a job and are unable to work because you or a family member have a serious health condition, you may be able to get Paid Family and Medical Leave.

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