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Who pays when part-time worker receives jobless benefits?

A part-time worker may qualify for some unemployment

A part-time worker may qualify for some unemployment benefits, but her current employer does not have to pay them. Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto / courtneyk

From time to time Help Wanted focuses on a single topic. Today’s subject is unemployment benefits.

DEAR CARRIE: I am a manager, and my question concerns an employee who works two days a week for a total of 16 hours. She had been unemployed, and still receives unemployment benefits from her previous employer. But now my payroll office is telling me that we have to pay $175 toward her unemployment plus pay her wage. This does not seem right to me. I feel like we are getting penalized for hiring her. Is this correct? — Doesn’t Compute?

DEAR DOESN’T: Not likely, said a local attorney.

Her previous employers should be the only ones liable for the unemployment benefits, said Christine Malafi, a partner at Campolo, Middleton & McCormick in Ronkonkoma.

“In New York, an employer that hires someone who is already receiving unemployment benefits, and will continue to receive unemployment benefits while working part-time for the employer, is generally not liable for the payment of that person’s unemployment benefits,” she said.

In the scenario you described, the employer was not a previous employer, “so no contribution should be due from the employer to pay those benefits,” Malafi said.

When someone files for unemployment insurance benefits, a “base period,” which looks at the person’s previous employment record, determines whether or not he or she is eligible for benefits.

The person’s prior employers before the claim is made will be charged proportionately, based on the person’s wages for each employer during the base period, Malafi said.

While you’re not responsible for paying her benefits at this point, your company’s current unemployment insurance rates will be affected because the employee joined your staff.

Here’s why:

Nearly all employers must pay into New York State’s Unemployment Insurance Fund. (Some notable exceptions include nonprofits, governmental entities, and American Indian tribes.) Part of the contribution rates take into account a company’s unemployment insurance experience, such as its ability to make timely payments, its account balance, and the amount of wages being paid, Malafi said.

“The employer is responsible for the payment of its contributions to the unemployment insurance fund based on the inclusion of the new employee into the calculation,” Malafi said.

In addition, employers must pay a percentage of their employees’ total wages into a re-employment service fund, which is used by the state to provide services to unemployed workers, such as job placement, résumé preparation and workshops, she said.

DEAR CARRIE: If the owner of a limited liability corporation sells the company and is asked to stay on as an employee of the acquiring company for a short transition period of a month or two, would she qualify for state unemployment benefits at the end of the transition period? — Benefits Here?

DEAR BENEFITS: Malafi believes that is unlikely.

The time the person worked as an owner wouldn’t count toward benefits because owners of New York limited liability companies are not eligible for New York State unemployment benefits, she said.

Therefore, the former owner would become eligible for unemployment benefits when the transition ends only if her wages earned and hours worked during the transition meet the eligibility threshold for unemployment benefits, Malafi said.

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