Recurring questions from readers of About.com's advertising channel are about unemployment and benefits. The reason for the glut of questions is simple; advertising is directly related to the economy. When everything is going well, corporations and businesses have money to spend on advertising, marketing and design.
However, when things aren't so rosy, the belts get tightened and the advertising budgets are slashed. Despite this being a very poor strategy (you should always advertise during a recession, you'll come out even stronger on the other end) it doesn't stop it happening. And when advertising and design budgets are slashed, layoffs happen. So, what do you do? Here's a list of frequently asked questions, and answers that should help you.
I've Just Been Laid Off. Now what?
Well, first off, don't panic. Hopefully, this is not something that just reared up and bit you. Anyone who has read "Who Moved My Cheese?" knows that there are plenty of warning signs before you get the axe. But if you didn't see them, or it all happened very suddenly, then there are certain steps you should take.
1: Get everything you are owed from your current employer. That will be different for each case, but could include unused vacation and sick pay, severance pay, unpaid bonuses, and other cash rewards. Severance pay can affect your unemployment benefits, so speak to an attorney first.
2: Ask for a letter of recommendation. There's no time like the present, and it's a lot easier to obtain one while you're in the building, than later on by email. Remember, when you leave, you are out of sight, out of mind.
3: Apply for Unemployment Benefits. Do this as soon as you can. The longer you leave it, the longer it will take for them to kick in. There is great advice available here.
4: Roll over your 401k, if you have one. You don't want it sitting idle. There is some great information here on 401k rollovers.
5: Start job-hunting right away. This is no time to rest on your laurels and take a vacation. Even just a week off, to gather yourself, can turn into two weeks, then four. Before you know it, you're out of the loop and missing opportunities left and right. So start networking immediately. Used LinkedIn and FaceBook. Search the job boards and apply for everything you can. The aim here is to become employed again at a salary that will sustain you, not to find your dream job. Once you're employed, you can always begin the search for the job you really want.
How Long Will I Receive Unemployment Benefits?
At the time of writing this article, jobless benefits last a maximum of 99 weeks. That's split into 26 weeks of benefits paid by the state, and then an additional 73 weeks of federally funded benefits that you must apply for when your state benefits run out. That's roughly two years in total.
How Much Will I Receive From Unemployment?
Again, this figure will be specific to you. It is based on the earnings you received at your previous job, and is usually based on the four quarters preceding the quarter in which you were laid off. However, some say it is calculated by adding the total wages for the two highest quarters of the year in which you were employed, then dividing it first by two, and then multiplying by 0.0385. That would be your weekly benefit. Others say simply to cut the amount you earn right now in half, and that's what you'll get. So for your own sake, do your homework and study the employment benefits for your state.
I Still Perform Freelance Work? Will This Affect My Benefits?
The perplexing answer to this one is "most likely," but as it's all done on a case-by-case basis, and varies from state to state, you may not be affected as much. Alison Doyle, the About.com Guide to Job Searching, offered some great insight. You should definitely visit jobsearch.about.com for help in this area, but here's a quick breakdown of the ins and outs of benefits.
Generally speaking, when you're laid off and you apply for unemployment benefits, you will be required to report any additional income you receive. Even if you do just a few hours of freelance work every month, you are required by law to declare that income.
The tricky part comes in declaring when you worked. For instance, in New York you are deemed to be employed on any day that you perform paid services. If it's just an hour (or less) in self-employment or doing freelance work, you cannot get benefits for that day. If you get paid a lump sum ever month for services you perform, you will need to declare on which days you did that work.
What's more, even if you do not get compensated on that day, if you worked you are not getting benefits. Again, this is all in a gray area, so talk to your local unemployment benefits office.
I Wasn't Laid Off, I Was Fired. Do I Get Benefits?
If your employer can prove you were fired for any of the following reasons, you will not get benefits:
- Willful misconduct
- Committing a felony
- Larceny exceeding $25
- Participation in an illegal strike
- Being sentenced to a prison term exceeding 30 days
- Abuse of drugs or alcohol
Remember, the burden of proof is on the employer. You may have to go to court, but if benefits are on the line and you believe you were wrongly dismissed, it's worth the fight.