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Pennsylvania's Work Search Requirements for Unemployment Compensation Claimants

December 19, 2012

In January 2012, the Pennsylvania unemployment compensation law was revised to add additional eligibility requirements for claimants collecting benefits in Pennsylvania. In addition to the existing requirements regarding financial eligibility and a qualifying separation from employment, claimants are now required to fulfill Pennsylvania’s “Active Search for Work Requirements.”

The new work search requirements apply to claimants who applied for benefits on or after January 1, 2012. Therefore, if your members are collecting unemployment compensation benefits in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, it is important to advise them to check the application date (or “AB Date”) on their unemployment compensation paperwork to determine if the new work search requirements apply to them.

The January 2012 amendments require claimants to register for employment-search services by going to the Pennsylvania JobGateway website at www.jobgateway.pa.gov. Upon registration, claimants must set up an online profile. We recommend that claimants print and/or save their Registration Confirmation page for their records.

Following registration, claimants must engage in an active search for work. Pennsylvania unemployment compensation claimants have always been required to actively look for work in order remain eligible for benefits. However, the January 2012 amendments establish specific tasks that claimants must complete in order to meet the requirement of an active search for work. These tasks become increasingly burdensome on the claimant the longer the claimant remains unemployed.

Claimants must begin their active search after the second consecutive week of the claimant’s benefit year, which is the 52 weeks beginning on the claimant’s date of application for benefits. This means that starting from the third consecutive week of unemployment, claimants must apply for at least two (2) positions per week. Claimants may limit themselves to positions that (a) would provide wages and employment comparable to those that the claimant had prior to unemployment, and (b) are within a forty-five (45) minute commuting distance of the claimant’s home. The requirement that a claimant “apply” for a position can mean that he or she expresses an interest to an employer in person, by mail, by phone, or over the internet.

During the ninth consecutive week of the claimant’s benefit year, the work search requirements become more demanding. The claimant must begin applying for at least three (3) positions per week at that time. Further, the claimant must expand his or her job search to include positions that would provide any suitable work that the claimant can perform. It is therefore important for claimants to make a note on their calendar of the ninth consecutive week of collecting unemployment compensation so that they can adjust their search accordingly.

Finally, for each week after the second consecutive week of unemployment, the claimant must do at least one of the following: (1) attend a job fair; (2) search for positions on the JobGateway system or internet job bank; (3) create or post a resume on the JobGateway system or some other resuming posting service; (4) network by contacting colleagues, former coworkers, etc.; (5) utilize the services of an employment agency; (6) take a civil service or some other pre-employment test; or (7) participate in a Pennsylvania CareerLink program. A claimant who exceeds the minimum number of positions applied for in one week need not comply with this second part of the active work search.

Although claimants are not regularly required to submit proof of their active work search to the unemployment compensation office, claimants are required to keep a record of their efforts. Claimants may do so on the JobGateway website, or may maintain their own files. Claimants must understand that the unemployment compensation authorities may at any time request that claimants produce their work search record. It is thus very important for claimants to comply with Pennsylvania’s active work search requirements and keep a detailed record of their efforts, even though claimants are not regularly required to submit this information to the unemployment office. Failure to provide this information may result in liability to repay benefits.

As a final matter, there are some exceptions to Pennsylvania’s active work search requirements. For purposes of our clients, the most applicable exception is the hiring hall exception. The active work search requirements do not apply to any week that a claimant (a) is a member of a union that has a hiring hall or is registered with a hiring hall, (b) is required to obtain employment through the hiring hall, and (3) fulfills all requirements to maintain eligibility for referral by the hiring hall during the week.

Information contained in this article is taken from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor website. Should you have any questions regarding Pennsylvania’s active work search requirements, please visit the Department of Labor website or contact our office.

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