Information on the purpose of unemployment, eligibility, weekly benefit rate and earned sick leave related to the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Purpose of Unemployment
The purpose of unemployment compensation is to provide some income for workers who lost work through no fault or act of their own, until such time as they can find work.
Subject to applicable limitations and conditions, among other requirements, an unemployed individual is eligible to receive benefits only if: (1) the individual has filed a claim; (2) the claim for benefits has been made in accordance with the statutory requirements pertaining to claims for benefits; and (3) the individual is able to work, is available for work, and has demonstrated to be actively seeking work.
An individual who has been “laid off” by an employer is unemployed. Regarding paid vacation, the courts in New Jersey have held that a person who has been laid off is not entitled to receive unemployment benefits for the weeks for which he or she received the vacation pay.
Generally, a person who is self-employed or an owner of a dental practice who does not pay for unemployment insurance is not eligible for unemployment compensation benefits.
Among other matters, information describing eligibility, how to apply for benefits and payment methods is available on the website of the New Jersey Division of Unemployment Insurance. Applications can be made on-line. Specific information on unemployment and COVID-19 can be found at https://www.nj.gov/labor/worker-protections/earnedsick/covid.shtml.
Weekly Benefit Rate
The weekly benefit rate is 60% of an individual’s average weekly wage, subject to a maximum of 56 2/3% of the Statewide average weekly remuneration paid to workers by employers subject to the unemployment compensation law as determined and promulgated by the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development. As of January 1, 2020, the maximum benefit is $667; on July 1, it will go up to $881.
Earned Sick Leave
In pertinent part, the statute governing Earned Sick Leave requires an employer to permit an employee to use earned sick leave only if the workplace is closed or if their child’s school or daycare is closed “by order of a public official due to an epidemic or other public health emergency” or if a public health authority determines the need for a quarantine.