Can I Use Unemployment to Care for a Sick Family Member?

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July 24, 2024 at 10:6PM UTC

When it comes to collecting unemployment benefits, the laws may seem a bit murky. Who is eligible and what circumstances qualify or disqualify you from receiving compensation?

The rules are complex, especially in terms of how the reasons behind your leaving your job affect your ability to receive unemployment compensation. Moreover, they vary from state to state. One frequently-asked question is, “Can I use unemployment to care for a sick family member?”

Keep reading for the laws surrounding this and related topics. For the purposes of this article, we use New York State as an example, but remember that laws often vary according to your state.

Can you collect unemployment if you are off for medical reasons?

It’s rare that you’ll be able to collect short-term disability and unemployment disability benefits simultaneously. Some states allow you to collect one or the other. In New York, you may receive temporary disability benefits if a medical condition prevents you from doing your work. 

If you resign from your job because of a serious medical condition, you may be able to receive unemployment in some states, but New York is not one of them. (Note that in some states that do provide unemployment for medical reasons, the condition must be linked to your job.) The ability to work is often of a condition for being eligible for these benefits (however, if your employer doesn’t make reasonable accommodations for a medical condition, that’s another story). 

Can caregivers get unemployment?

Considered a “compelling family circumstance,” New York is one of 15 states that enables you to collect unemployment benefits if you need to leave your job to care for a sick family member. However, you may not receive them unless and until you are able to work again. Part of the condition of receiving these benefits in all states is the ability to physically work and being engaged in an active job search, as well as a willingness to accept job offers.

In other words, if your caretaker duties interfere with those conditions, you may not be eligible to receive unemployment. You may, however, still qualify if your job was terminated while you were on leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act FMLA — provided, of course, you are again able to work.

Can I apply for unemployment after short-term disability?

In New York, employers must provide disability benefits to employees who are injured due to on- or off-job reasons. However, you can’t receive both types of benefits simultaneously. If your disability renders you ineligible for unemployment benefits, you may begin to collect disability benefits. 

These benefits are cash-only and have certain conditions attached. For example, they are generally 50% of your average weekly wages for the previous eight weeks you worked but are capped at $170 per week. They may be paid for a maximum of 26 weeks within a year-period (52 consecutive weeks). 

Can a stay-at-home mom get unemployment?

If you left your job voluntarily, you are not eligible to collect unemployment. Moreover, as noted above, conditions of receiving the benefit include actively looking for a job and being willing and able to accept an offer of employment for work that you are capable of performing. 

That means that if you’ve chosen to be a stay-at-home mom, it’s unlikely that you’re eligible for unemployment. If, however, your employer terminated you or was unable to provide reasonable accommodations and was aware of your needs and circumstances, then you may be eligible. 

Moreover, if you left your job willingly because it in some way posed a threat to the safety of your child or family member, you may also be eligible. 

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