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Illinois Unemployment Eligibility

Illinois’s unemployment compensation law sets the requirements that must be met to obtain unemployment compensation in the state.

There are some basic requirements for collecting Illinois Unemployment Insurance. Claimants will find that the requirements for regular unemployment insurance fall into two categories: monetary eligibility and non-monetary eligibility. Your weekly unemployment insurance benefit is determined based on your work history and wages, of which there must be a sufficient amount to qualify for unemployment insurance benefits (a monetary requirement). But there are also requirements in place regarding why you are seeking assistance from the unemployment insurance program in the first place (a non-monetary requirement).

There are two types of eligibility. Non-monetary eligibility deals with various aspects of your work and employment whereas monetary eligibility contains a set of requirements which involve your earnings in the year before filing for unemployment. The state has put these requirements into action to ensure the benefits are not misused.

Illinois Unemployment Eligibility Calculator

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Non Monetary Eligibility

  • You must have lost job through no fault of your own.
  • Be available for work.
  • Be actively seeking work.
  • You must quit your job for good cause.
  • Your must not be fired for misconduct.
  • Earned sufficient wages in insured employment / covered employment.

Some eligibility requirements are not related to how much money you made in your base period or the nature of your last encounter with the human resource department at your last place of employment.

One of the requirements is that you must be unemployed through no fault of your own. That means your most recent discharge from an employer was not because of gross negligence or willful malfeasance. It also means that if you did quit your job, it was because of a good cause. Otherwise, you will not meet the eligibility requirements for collecting UI insurance benefits.

Part of the Illinois job search requirement means you are able and willing to work. In terms of work ability, this means you’re physically and mentally fit enough to take a new job that is reasonably comparable to your previous employment. In terms of willingness, it means you cannot turn down a comparable job because of considerations like lack of transportation or lack of child care unless your dependents are sick. If you do not meet these non-monetary eligibility requirements for good reasons, you might explore some other options for financial assistance like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

In terms of work search, there are some requirements. You must register with the Illinois Employment Service system on the IllinoisJobLink website, or in person at an IDES office. You must make two contacts per week with a potential employer, although it is recommended you make more.

These job search requirements were waived for individuals collecting certain extended UI benefits, such as Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). However, for regular unemployment, you must be actively looking for work. You must also keep a record of your work search activity for at least 53 weeks after the last week in which you collect unemployment insurance, because the Illinois unemployment office may request a review of your work search activity during this time.

Monetary Eligibility

To be monetarily eligible for unemployment benefits,

  • You must have earned at least $1,600 during the base period.
  • You must have earned at least $440 outside of the highest paid base period quarter.
  • If you do not qualify under the standard base period, Illinois Department of Unemployment Security (IDES) will use the most recent four completed quarters for an alternate base period.

One requirement for unemployment insurance eligibility is that you earned a minimum amount of money during something called your base period. Your base period is the first four of the last five complete calendar quarters immediately preceding the quarter in which you file your initial claim for benefits, which is considered the start of your benefit year.

You must have earned a total of $1,600 in gross wages during this time period. Moreover, $440 of these gross wages must have been paid outside of your highest earning quarter. The purpose of these requirements is to make sure that you were actively part of the workforce when you apply for Illinois unemployment, because unemployment benefits are really to help working people with a temporary situation until they get back on their feet.

If you were injured at your last workplace or perhaps even the one before, and have been awarded workers compensation insurance or temporary disability, there may be a different way of determining your base period. If you were unemployed or partially employed and did not earn sufficient wages during the base period, you may be eligible for something called an alternate base period, which is the last four complete quarter calendars immediately preceding the quarter in which you file your initial claim – as opposed to the standard method of having one complete calendar quarter between your benefit year and your base period.

The alternate base year bumps your base period closer to the date on which you file if it can help you meet the monetary eligibility requirements. If it seems confusing, contact Contact IDES Claimant Services at 800-244-5631 for further discussion with a customer service agent.

Another component of this monetary eligibility is that your work is insured. This means your employer made payments to the state because of the Illinois Unemployment Insurance Act. Uninsured work includes things like agricultural work or domestic work paid in cash, railroad work, commission-based insurance sales, and some types of government work like holding an elected office.

Job Separation Requirements

You must be unemployed through no fault of your own. This rules out separation due to something like gross negligence resulting in the significant destruction of business property, or willful misconduct such as getting in a fight with another employer or a customer. It also rules out termination due to excessive absence or tardiness.

If you show up to work on time, and perform the duties outlined in your job description to the best of your ability, but are still unable to satisfactorily meet the expectations or needs of your employer, you can qualify for unemployment insurance. If your termination was due to a layoff, or your work hours were reduced, you can likely qualify for unemployment benefits.

Eligibility Questions

If I’m fired, will I be eligible for unemployment benefits?

Generally, in Illinois you have to lose your job through no fault of your own in order to obtain unemployment benefits. In most cases, this means that if you get fired, you cannot receive jobless benefits. In case you got fired from your job, you must proceed and apply for jobless benefits. There are instances where you can be fired from your job and still obtain benefits. If you were fired unjustly or if there were any justifying situations, be sure to mention about the same to your unemployment counselor. If your unemployment application is rejected, you also have the right to appeal the decision.

Job Separation Disqualifications

According to Illinois law, you won’t qualify for Illinois unemployment benefits if you leave your job for no good reason (e.g. you just don’t like it).

You are also not eligible for unemployment compensation if you committed misconduct at your workplace. This includes criminal activity, whether it violates state or federal law.

If you are filing an unemployment claim because your workplace closed as part of a labor dispute, you cannot collect UI benefits. If, however, claimants can show that you and other workers were not part of the dispute, you may be able to collect benefits.

If you are receiving employee benefits like a pension or vacation time, you are not eligible. If you are receiving extended benefits like a severance package, you are also not eligible.

There are other situations in which you may not be eligible for benefits, such as if you are an independent contractor. During the pandemic, such members of the workforce were eligible to receive PUA benefits and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC).

Can I quit my job and still get Illinois unemployment benefits?

Generally speaking, you cannot quit your job and collect unemployment, if your reason for quitting was that you just don’t like your job. However, there are a few ways you can quit your job and still collect unemployment insurance.

If you quit because of your health issues or because you feel the job endangers your health. These health issues would need to be unrelated to your employment, as employment-related health issues fall into the category of collecting workers compensation insurance.

If you quit because of sexual harassment. This can include physical acts of sexual harassment such as touch, molestation, or even rape. But it may also include verbal harassment. Make sure to capture any incidents of this, especially if they occurred in writing via email or text, and immediately document any time it happens.

Domestic violence falls into the same category. You are never required by law to attend a workplace if you feel physically threatened or if physical violence has been used against you.

You can be eligible for UI if you quit due to “unsuitable work,” which is a legal definition. According to Illinois employment law, it is unsuitable work if the job opening only existed in the first place because of a labor dispute, or if the wages, hours, and working conditions of the job are not as good as a comparable job in the same community.

If the job compromises your morality, that is a sufficient reason for quitting. The same is true if taking the job would mean forfeiting your membership in a labor union or being prevented from joining one, or if you would have to displace a current employee by taking the job due to a collective bargaining agreement.

If you need to accompany a relocated military spouse, you can leave your job and collect unemployment.

The same is true if you do not exercise bumping privileges. Bumping privileges are a mechanism where senior employees may displace another employee per the terms of a previously made binding agreement.

In certain situations, you may also be eligible to collect unemployment if you quit your job and accept another form of employment that does not immediately begin.

I was laid off from my previous job. Am I eligible to receive unemployment compensation?

In Illinois you have to lose your job through no fault of your own in order to collect unemployment. When you get laid-off, it is not your fault. In almost all cases, this means that if you get laid-off, you are eligible and should apply immediately for unemployment benefits. Getting laid-off doesn’t mean that you were fired or you did something wrong. It means that the company that you worked for did not have enough work for you to do, and could no longer pay for your job.

Once you qualify for the unemployment benefits, your documents will be processed in about a week after which you will receive the benefit amount to your account or unemployment debit card, based on the choice made while filing the initial claim. Please make sure you apply for unemployment benefits without any delay as one week waiting period is inevitable and worse, you will not receive any pay during that week.

This does not end here. Make sure you file your weekly claims as without weekly certification you will not receive any benefit amount.

If You Are Not Eligible for Benefits

If you are not eligible for benefits, or you think you aren’t, you might consider a consultation with an employment lawyer who can help you turn over every proverbial stone and see if there is some way you might indeed qualify. If you are denied benefits and believe you should be getting them, you can file an appeal. Follow the directions in your Determination Letter to pursue that avenue.

After reviewing the eligibility requirements, it’s also a good idea to take a look at an Illinois unemployment calculator and see the weekly benefit amount you should get. If your determination is different than this amount, that may also be a good cause to file an appeal.


Check the Benefit questions if your question is not listed here.

Want to know your weekly benefit rate? Use our free and easy to use Illinois UI calculator to know your benefit payment.

    • One of the few primary eligibility criteria to draw UI benefits in any state is that you should be able and available to work.Looks like you fulfill this criteria.Please file for UI benefits. Remember,approval of the claim is dependent on other factors as well.

  1. On my current job i was working full time & now i am working part time 20 hours or less per week am i elegable for partial unemployment benefits?

  2. My employer has cut me from 3 days per week to 1 day per week. I have worked for him since 2004. He hired a family member who is now salaried and there is another part time employee who he has not been cut at all. I asked him why he did not give me the extra hours before he hired the salaried family member and he said I did not have the right last name. Do I qualify for any benefits? He (my boss also employs my ex husband and has sided with him in the divorce. I feel this is why he has layed me off.

  3. I have been taken off the work schedule for 3 weeks. Its like a temporary layoff and will be called back around the end of Nov. can I file for benefits during this time that I’m not on the schedule?

  4. What if we are working comission only and they are taking taxes out of our checks. Suppose to be giving an hourly wage if not making commission can we file unemployment during the non commission times of the year? Which would be during the winter.

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