Do You Know How to Meet Your Work Search Requirements While Receiving Unemployment Benefits?

Editor’s note: This article was updated on Dec. 6, 2019, to reflect changes to acceptable work search contacts.

The Top 10 Things You Need to Know

1. Actively look for work

Almost everyone collecting unemployment insurance benefits is required to actively look for work each week.

In very few cases, some people may not be required to look for work if they are scheduled to return to full-time employment within 16 weeks and they are considered to be job attached. Never assume you are job attached or are not required to look for work. If you think these situations may apply to you, please call a claim specialist at (208) 332-8942.

Unless you have specifically been told that you do not have to actively look for work, you are required to look for a full-time job. In fact, you are required to complete two employer contacts or work search activities each week you file a claim for unemployment benefits.

You MUST comply with the work search requirements you agreed to when you completed your online application. These requirements can be viewed, and verified, online at our Claimant Portal. Log in to your account at labor.idaho.gov/claimantportal, and then go to Manage Claims to view this information.

2. Seasonal jobs

Seasonal employees are people who work in industries where short layoffs, or a reduction of hours, are expected at a certain time every year. These employees could be considered to be job attached if they have a definite return-to-work date and are expected to return to work within 16 weeks. Job attached designations for seasonal workers are limited to 16 weeks of reduced hours or scheduled layoff. This is applied statewide with no exceptions to the rule. Please note, if you are considered to be job attached, this is usually specifically stated on your online application for unemployment benefits.

If claimants do not have a definite return-to-work date that is within 16 weeks of their layoff, or reduction in hours, they must look for work. We aren’t saying you can’t go back to your previous employer, but you will need to look for work during the time you are receiving unemployment benefits. Often people who work in seasonal industries find a second job working in an industry that is busy during the time their normal industry is not busy. For example, someone who works as a lookout for the U.S. Forest Service in the summer could work as a school bus driver in the fall and winter months.

3. Union members

Union members are not automatically exempt from the normal work search requirements. Your work search requirements could be waived if you are an active member of a union that regularly refers you to full-time work.

During the claim filing process, you will be asked questions regarding union membership to determine your proper work search responsibilities. If your work search requirements are going to be waived, this will usually be stated on your online application.

4. Meeting work search requirements to avoid your benefits from being stopped

You are required to complete two employer contacts or work search activities each week. Contacts must be with employers who typically hire people for the type of jobs you are looking for and the type of jobs you are able to perform. These contacts can be made online, in person, by mail, by email or by phone. Other work search activities, such as attending a hiring event, must be applicable to searching for work and something any unemployed person seeking work would normally do.

You are also required to have an active IdahoWorks account.

Additionally, you may be required to meet in person with one of our workforce consultants at your Labor office. The consultant will help make sure you have all the tools you need so you can return to work in the shortest amount of time possible. Our workforce consultants can help you by making sure your resume is ready, by preparing you for job interviews and by sharing innovative job seeking tips.

It is important to keep your address up-to-date in our Claimant Portal so the letter we mail you that contains the information about meeting with a workforce consultant is not delayed or lost in the mail. If you are asked to meet with a workforce consultant and do not participate, then your benefits will be stopped.

5. Acceptable employer contacts or work-search activities

The most common way to contact an employer for work is to apply with an application, resume, cover letter or letter of interest. Interviewing for a position is also an acceptable employer contact.

We recommend meeting with an Idaho Department of Labor staff member for work search assistance. They offer interview preparation classes, job search workshops and mock interviews.

Registering with a staffing service, recruiter or placement agency is an acceptable work search activity.

Networking or meeting with others in your career field in an attempt to obtain work counts as an acceptable work search activity. We recommend attending a job seeker event such as a job fair, virtual job fair, networking opportunity event, job club or employer sponsored workshop.

An employer may ask you to complete a test, background check or drug test prior to employment. Completing an employer’s employment prerequisite is an acceptable work search activity.

6. Unacceptable employer contacts or work-search activities

It is not acceptable to contact an employer repeatedly or check on a position you have already applied for. You cannot count a contact with the same employer more than once unless you have progressed to the next level in the hiring process. For example, you may not send in a resume one week and then reuse the same contact the following week because you sent a second resume. However, if you have sent in a resume and are now being asked to interview, then you may use this work search contact again for the week when the interview happens.

Contact with your most recent employer is not considered an acceptable employment contact. Also, if you are currently work part time, you may not use your current employer as a work search contact.

It is not acceptable to apply for work you are not qualified for (i.e. do not have the skills or education to perform the job).

An online contact is only acceptable if it results in an online application being completed or a résumé being submitted. Simply searching websites such as IdahoWorks.gov or Indeed.com for job openings is not enough to meet this requirement. You must also apply for the position as directed by the employer. For example, if an employer directs you to submit an application online, you must do so for the contact to be acceptable.

Click here for more information regarding acceptable contacts.

7. Reporting work search contacts

You will be asked to enter information about your work search contacts when you file your weekly certification. (Your weekly certification is completed using the Claimant Portal at labor.idaho.gov/claimantportal.)

Some of the information you will be asked to enter includes the type of job you applied for, company name, address, phone number, contact name, the date of contact, type of contact and the results of the contact.

Our work search log can help you keep track of this information so you have it ready when you file your weekly certification application online.

8. Not looking for work

You may be denied benefits for any week that you don’t complete two acceptable work search contacts or employment activities. If you are having trouble meeting this requirement, our workforce consultants can help you find jobs to apply for.

9. Know your rights and responsibilities

It is important to know your rights and responsibilities as an unemployment insurance claimant. The Rights & Responsibilities pamphlet we mailed to you after you applied for benefits contains this information. Understanding this information will help you avoid having your benefits stopped or denied because you failed to comply with your work search requirements.

10. Returning to work

You’re required to continue to look for work even after you have received a job offer. The Idaho Department of Labor does not change your work-seeking status until you have actually returned to full-time employment.

It also is important to know that you must not file your weekly certification for any week in which you worked full time. It is not OK to continue to file for benefits until you receive your first paycheck. Continuing to collect benefits after returning to work full time is considered fraud and could lead to monetary penalties and criminal prosecution. If you do this, your new employer also will be notified.

Once you start working full time, simply quit filing your weekly certifications to make your claim inactive. There is no need to call us.

11. How the Idaho Department of Labor can help you find a job

Help is available, free of charge, at any of our Idaho Department of Labor offices and mobile locations. If you would like assistance in your job search, please make an appointment with a workforce consultant. Find all the locations for Labor local and mobile offices at labor.idaho.gov/officedirectory.

Many resources can be found on the Idaho Department of Labor website. Some of these resources include job listings on IdahoWorks and wage and career information on JobScape. We also have several publications with tips for job seekers.

— Kristie Winslow, technical writer
Idaho Department of Labor