Frequently asked questions for workers

Loss of work

My employer has shut down operations temporarily because an employee is sick and we have been asked to isolate or quarantine as a result of COVID-19. Am I eligible for unemployment benefits?

If you are not receiving payment from your employer, such as paid sick leave or paid time off, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits and may qualify for standby during this time. Eligibility decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. Learn more about the basic eligibility requirements for a claim.

What if my employer goes out of business as a result of COVID-19?

You may be eligible for unemployment benefits if you’re out of work due to a lack of work. Visit the Employment Security Department (ESD) COVID-19 info page for updates about state and federal unemployment benefit programs.

What if I am temporarily laid off work because business has slowed down as a result of COVID-19?

If you are laid off work temporarily or if your hours are reduced due to a business slowdown or a lack of demand as a result of COVID-19, you may be able to receive unemployment benefits. Eligibility decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.

Standby means you do not have to look for another job while you collect unemployment benefits, so long as you stay in contact with your regular employer. You must accept any work you can do without breaking isolation or quarantine that is offered by your employer, such as telework. 

Emergency rules effective March 20 allow workers up to 12 weeks of standby. We are updating our technology to reflect the new rules. If you request more than four weeks of standby, you may receive a letter denying your request. Do not worry. We are reviewing standby denials on a case-by-case basis to determine if they meet the new criteria. If your standby request is approved, you will receive another letter informing you of the approval. Keep filing weekly claims during this time.

Partial Employment or SharedWork: Under certain circumstances, you may work part-time while collecting unemployment benefits.

I am a part-time employee. Am I eligible for standby?

If you have an anticipated date that you will return to work, under the emergency rules we put into place as a result of COVID-19, standby is available to all full-time, part-time, and other less than full-time employees. If you worked part time in the last 18 months, you must meet the minimum requirement of having worked 680 hours in your base year in order to have an unemployment claim. Find basic eligibility requirements for a claim.

IMPORTANT NOTICE REGARDING STANDBY: If you request standby status (full-time or part-time), you may receive an automated notice indicating your request is denied. Do not worry, that notice does not reflect the emergency rules. We are in the process of updating our computer system. You do not need to call the claims center. We will review all standby denials from March 8 forward to determine if they meet the new criteria. If your standby request is approved, you will receive another letter informing you of the approval. Keep filing weekly claims during this time. 

I am a gig worker. Am I eligible for unemployment?

There is a lot of confusion out there about whether gig workers, like rideshare drivers, are eligible for unemployment benefits. But, if you are a gig worker who has lost work due to COVID-19, we want you to apply for unemployment benefits! There are some challenges with the application process that we are working to resolve. Read these tips:

  • The online application is not designed for the way you work. Fill it out the best that you can. Our claims agents work through these applications on a case-by-case basis.
  • Currently, independent contractors and sole proprietors are not eligible for unemployment insurance. Whether a gig worker is considered to be in one of these categories varies by situation. Our claims center agents will evaluate situations on a case-by-case basis. We want you to apply anyway.

Affected by illness

What if I need to take time off work because I contract COVID-19?

The first and best option for employees who need to miss work due to illness is to use their employer-paid time off. Labor and Industries has information about Paid Sick Leave. When this leave is not available, Paid Family and Medical Leave may be available to help.

What should I do if I contract COVID-19 on the job?

See information from the Dept. of Labor and Industries information on Workers’ Compensation

Do I qualify for unemployment benefits if I become seriously ill and I am forced to quit my job as a result of COVID-19?

If you are too ill to be able and available for work, you do not qualify for unemployment benefits. However, you may qualify for Paid Family & Medical Leave while you are sick. Once you recover and are available for work again, you can apply for unemployment benefits.