Employment Law Alert: New Unemployment Compensation Rules Due to Coronavirus

    By Labor & Employment

    On March 17, 2020, Governor Ralph Northam announced temporary changes to Virginia’s unemployment compensation system in response to employer closures and reduced hours resulting from COVID-19 also referred to as coronavirus. The changes will provide benefits more quickly to unemployed and underemployed workers and also set aside work search requirements.

    Waiting Week Set Aside

    Normally unemployed workers must be eligible for at least two weeks of benefits to receive payment for the first week following a qualifying separation. For now, eligibility for the first week will not depend on continuing unemployment.

    Work Search Requirement Waived

    Normally unemployed workers must make at least two bona fide work search efforts per week during their claim for benefits and report the results to the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC). For now, that requirement has also been waived.

    Eligibility Modified

    Normally absence from work due to an illness of the employee or a family member may impact eligibility. For now, absences of the employee or a family member due to self-quarantine directed by a medical or public health official will not impact eligibility. Benefits are not payable for a week in which an employee has received full pay from an employer, including employer-provided sick or vacation leave. 

    Amount and Duration of Benefits

    Employees are normally eligible for unemployment compensation payable by the employer through unemployment taxes for up to 26 weeks. The amount payable ranges from $60 to $378 per week, called the weekly benefit amount (WBA), based on the employee’s prior earnings. This duration and amount have not yet been changed, but changes to duration and funding are under consideration at the federal level. An employee may be eligible for some amount less than the WBA if he or she receives some pay in a given workweek but less than his or her WBA. 

    Official VEC Statement

    Claims can best be filed on-line at or by contacting the VEC at (866) 832-2363. An official VEC statement to employers states as follows:

    If you are a worker who has been totally or partially separated from your job due to coronavirus, please note that no claim for unemployment insurance may be filed or processed until an actual lay off from employment has occurred, or until there has been an actual reduction in hours. When filing your claim for unemployment benefits, please be sure to check the reason for separation as Lack of Work/Lay off. If you will be filing because of a reduction in hours, you will not receive benefits unless your gross earnings are less than your weekly benefit amount.

    If you have any questions about these changes, or any other concerns relating to COVID-19, please contact us.

    The contents of this publication are intended for general information only and should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion on specific facts and circumstances. Copyright 2024.