What does it mean if I am ineligible for UC benefits under 401(d)(1) – “able and available?”

Under Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Law, in order for any unemployed person to receive unemployment benefits (“UC benefits”), you must meet certain requirements. One of the requirements to receive UC benefits is that an unemployed person must be “able and available for suitable work.”

Looking at the Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Law, Section 401(d)(1) clearly states, “compensation shall be payable to any employee who is or becomes unemployed, and who … [i]s able to work and available for suitable work …” 43 P.S. § 80l(d)(1). It simply means that while collecting UC benefits, you have to be able to accept work if it becomes available.

The logic behind “able and available” is kind of harsh – if you are unable to work then you are not technically unemployed and are not eligible for UC benefits. However, it is usually not difficult for an unemployed person to prove he/she is able and available for work because usually there is some work that the unemployed person is capable of doing.

For an unemployed person to prove he/she is able and available for suitable work, he/she must prove they are capable of accepting some form of work. The unemployed person does not have to prove they are available for their customary line of work but only that they can do some type of work.

For example, say you were employed as a Computer Technician and you can no longer do that job either because you became disabled or just want a different career. You don’t have to prove you are available to accept work as a Computer Technician. You just have to prove that you are capable of doing some work, such as working at a fast food chain or as a legal secretary.

When proving you are able and available for work, it is important to note that it is not necessary to prove that a particular job vacancy exists.

For example, say you became unemployed and due to certain circumstances, you could only work a very specific job, like a tollbooth operator. You don’t have to prove that there is a job vacancy for a tollbooth operator. You only have to prove that the market exists, which luckily in today’s economy, it still does. However, you do have to prove that there is a reasonable chance for securing such work in the vicinity of where you live.

Using the above example, if you can only work as a tollbooth operator, you must be able to prove that you can secure work in the vicinity of where you live. While you may be able to prove the market exists, if you live 100 miles away from the nearest tollbooth, you may have a difficult time proving you have a reasonable chance of securing a job as a tollbooth operator.

If you can prove you are able and available for work, you are on your way to collecting UC benefits. However, there may be other obstacles that may prevent you from collecting UC benefits.