Unemployment Insurance: Florida
Federal law and guidance on this subject should be reviewed together with this section.
Author: Francis P. Morley
- Unemployment insurance is a nationwide program created to provide partial wage replacement to unemployed workers while they conduct an active search for work. Unemployment insurance is a joint federal-state program based on federal law and executed through state law. See Florida Reemployment Assistance Program Law.
- Unemployment compensation is a legally required benefit in Florida, and most Florida employers are subject to the Florida Reemployment Assistance Program Law. See Florida Reemployment Assistance Program Law.
- Employers that are not required to pay unemployment tax may elect to voluntarily provide unemployment coverage for their workers. See Florida Reemployment Assistance Program Law.
- Nonprofit organizations, governmental agencies, and Indian tribes are given the option of paying their unemployment insurance costs by the contribution method or the reimbursement method. See Florida Reemployment Assistance Program Law.
- Claimants must meet certain requirements in order to be eligible for unemployment benefits and/or may be disqualified from receiving benefits. See Eligibility and Disqualification.
- Employers are subject to certain recordkeeping requirements. See Recordkeeping Requirements.
- Florida's short-time compensation program helps employers retain employees who would otherwise have to be laid off. See Short-Time Compensation Program.
Florida Reemployment Assistance Program Law
Unemployment compensation is a legally required benefit in Florida, and most Florida employers are subject to the Florida Reemployment Assistance Program (RAP) law (formerly known as the Florida Unemployment Compensation Law).
Generally, the following employers are subject to the RAP law:
- Employers with a quarterly payroll of $1,500 or more in a calendar year;
- Employers with one or more employees for a day (or a portion of a day) during any 20 weeks in a calendar year;
- Agricultural employers with five or more employees for a day (or a portion of a day) during any 20 weeks in a calendar year, or with a cash payroll of $10,000 in any calendar quarter;
- Domestic employers with a cash payroll of $1,000 or more in a calendar quarter;
- Employers liable for federal unemployment tax;
- Certain employers that purchase all or part of a liable business;
- Certain nonprofit organizations that have four or more employees for a day (or portion of a day) during any 20 weeks in a calendar year;
- Employers that are a state, county, city or joint governmental unit; and
- Indian tribes or tribal units.
Some types of work are not covered by unemployment compensation and some wages paid for services are not subject to the unemployment tax. Some common exemptions include:
- Employees of a church, or convention or association of churches, as well as employees of certain organizations operated for religious purposes;
- Ordained, commissioned or licensed ministers of a church;
- Service for government by elected officials or members of the legislature and judiciary;
- Public employees serving on a temporary basis in case of fire, storm or other similar emergency;
- Services performed by an inmate of a custodial or penal institution;
- Service on a fishing vessel under 10 net tons;
- Services performed for a son, daughter or spouse, or services performed by children under the age of 21 for their mother or father;
- Services for a school, college or university performed by a student enrolled there;
- Services performed as a student nurse in a hospital or nurses' training program, an intern in a hospital who has completed medical school, or a hospital patient;
- Services performed by insurance agents and real estate agents who are compensated solely by commission; and
- Services performed by an individual under 18 delivering or distributing newspapers.
Employers that are not required to pay unemployment tax may elect to voluntarily provide unemployment coverage for their workers. Employers must file a written election with the tax collection service provider to become subject to Florida's RAP law. +Fla. Stat. § 443.121(3).
Employers generally must make unemployment compensation contributions on a quarterly basis. Initial contribution rates are set by law, and then may vary depending upon an employer's benefit experience. Employers that solely employ domestic employees may qualify to report wages and pay contributions on an annual basis. +Fla. Stat. § 443.131.
Nonprofit organizations, governmental agencies and Indian tribes are given the option of paying their unemployment insurance costs by the contribution method or the reimbursement method. The reimbursing employer must repay benefits paid to former employees on a dollar-for-dollar basis.
Employee leasing companies using the client method to pay contributions must electronically file and pay separately for each client company.
Private employers who contract to provide services to a governmental or nonprofit educational institution must separately identify the wages paid to employees who performed such service. Employees whose wages are identified as being paid for this type of service will not be eligible to receive unemployment compensation benefits based on these wages:
- Between academic years;
- During vacation periods or holiday recess; or
- During a contractually provided sabbatical.
Regardless of the method of payment, these employers must submit wage reports each quarter. If an employer chooses to change the method of paying, it must sign a special election form and stay with the chosen method for at least two years.
Eligibility and Disqualification
Unemployed individuals are eligible to receive benefits for any week if the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) finds that such individual:
- Has made a claim for benefits for that week;
- Has registered with the DEO and reports to the one-stop career center as directed. This requirement does not apply to individuals who are:
- Non-Florida residents;
- On a temporary layoff;
- Certain union members; or
- Claiming benefits under an approved short-time compensation plan;
- Is reporting to the DEO and is participating in an initial skills review;
- Is able to work, is available for work, and is actively seeking work;
- Participates in reemployment services if it is determined that such services are needed;
- Has satisfied a one-week waiting period; and
- Has received wages from a covered employer for a sufficient period of time and for sufficient wages.
Individuals may be disqualified for benefits for many reasons. Some of the more common reasons are:
- Voluntarily quitting without good cause;
- Termination or suspension for misconduct;
- Voluntary leave of absence;
- Failure to apply for suitable work, accept suitable work or return to work;
- Receipt of wages in lieu of notice or severance pay;
- Receipt of compensation due to disability under any workers' compensation law;
- Certain labor disputes;
- Receipt of unemployment benefits or seeking unemployment benefits under the law of another state or the United States;
- Making any false or fraudulent representation for the purpose of obtaining benefits;
- Receipt of certain retirement, pension or annuity program benefits;
- Termination of employment for violation of any criminal law or dishonest acts in connection with work;
- Termination of employment for drug use; and
- Unavailability for work due to incarceration or imprisonment.
Employers are required to maintain all records pertaining to compensation paid for services performed for a period of five years. The records must be made available to the DEO or the Florida Department of Revenue upon request. If the records are maintained outside of Florida, a resident agent must be designated in Florida through which the records may be obtained. +Fla. Stat. § 443.171(5).
Short-Time Compensation Program
The Florida DEO offers the short-time compensation program to help employers retain employees who would otherwise have to be laid off. Employers wishing to participate in the short-time compensation program must submit a short-time plan to the DEO for approval. The DEO will approve the plan if:
- The plan applies to and identifies each affected unit.
- Individuals in the affected unit are identified by name and Social Security Number.
- The normal weekly hours of work for individuals in the affected unit are reduced by not less than 10 percent and not more than 40 percent.
- The employer certifies that the total reduction in work hours is instead of temporary layoffs that would affect at least 10 percent of the employees in the affected unit.
- The plan applies to at least 10 percent of the employees in the affected unit.
- The plan is approved by the agent for each collective bargaining agreement covering an individual in the affected unit.
- The plan does not serve as a subsidy to seasonal employers or employers who traditionally use part-time employees.
- The plan certifies the manner in which the employer will treat fringe benefits.
An individual who is employed as a member of an affected unit under an approved short-time compensation plan is eligible to receive short-time compensation benefits as long as:
- The individual is able to work and available for additional hours of work with the short-time employer; and
- The normal weekly hours of the individual are reduced by not less than 10 percent, but not more than 40 percent, with a corresponding reduction in wages.
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