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Handbook for Laid-Off School Employees


What to do if this happens to you!

A NEA-New Hampshire Guide
Reduction in Force

Introduction 
Getting Organized
Continuation of Health Benefits
New Hampshire Retirement System
Unemployment Compensation
Disqualifications
Employment
In the Meantime . . .
Resources for NEA-NH Members

Introduction

So - you've been laid off from your job at school.
While no one plans on life events like losing one's job, you should know that events like these do happen and that the circumstances that lead to such events can be outside of your control. Each individual's situation is unique, and there are steps that every laid-off school employee should consider taking.

Contact your local union representative.
It is likely that your position was eliminated due to the current economic climate or specific conditions in your district such as declining enrollment or the elimination of programs. The collective bargaining agreement (CBA), negotiated by your local association and the school board, articulates procedures that must be followed if bargaining unit positions are eliminated. It is important for you to read your collective bargaining agreement and then meet with your local union representative to ensure that the steps articulated in the bargaining agreement were followed properly. The agreement may also contain seniority and recall rights. Your union representative or union president can assist you to ensure you understand your contract and the provisions it contains that relate to your current situation. A word of caution - if you are unsure about whether or not to sign any district documents related to being laid off, share the documents with your representative and solicit his or her explanation and advice before signing them.

Assess and utilize your support system.
Losing one's job affects different people in different ways. Some people may view losing a job with a sense of freedom and as an opportunity to explore different employment options, while others may experience losing their job with sadness and a sense that they have lost an important part of their identity. Be conscious of your own reactions and how the loss of the job is affecting you. Seek support if necessary. Connect with family members and close friends on whom you can rely for emotional support and guidance. An additional source of support may be through employee assistance program (EAP) offered to employees in your district. Until your contract expires, you may be able to participate in the EAP. If your district has a human resource person, contact that person to see what assistance is being offered. Don't forget that you are an important source of your own support. Remember to take care of your health and to eat well, exercise and work to keep a positive attitude.

Decide upon a future that is best for you and your situation, plan accordingly, and take the necessary action steps. Depending upon your situation, you may decide to begin looking for another job right away or you may decide to take some time to assess your options. When making this decision, seek help from either a professional or someone whose opinion you value and in whom you can confide.

Getting Organized

Start a File

District Personnel File

NOTE: Under COBRA, you are eligible (at your own cost) for continuation of insurance benefits after the District-paid group health insurance ceases. Check with your school district if you have questions.

Continuation of Health Benefits

If you have been laid off from employment in which you participated in the employer's group health benefit plan, you are eligible to continue your health benefits under COBRA. The federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA) requires employers to notify you if your health benefits are to be terminated. The law also provides for laid off employees to continue to participate in the group health plan for up to 18 months. Below are some key points to keep in mind when considering health benefits after a lay off:

New Hampshire Retirement System

Vested

This means that you have earned enough service credit for a retirement benefit. Currently, members vest with 10 years of service. You can leave your money in your account and apply for retirement when eligible. You continue to earn interest and you can withdraw any time if you change your mind. If you don't withdraw and you return to work, you'll become an active member again and keep your service. See a financial planner for the best plan of action.

Not Vested

You are not guaranteed a retirement benefit. You need to withdraw your money within five years. That's when you'll stop earning interest and forfeit your service. If you don't withdraw, and you return to work within five years, you will immediately become an active member again and keep your service.

Unemployment Compensation

If you need income to assist you with living expenses, apply for unemployment compensation. Your district's human resource person can assist you with the steps you need to take, or you can access information online at the State of New Hampshire Department of Employment Security Web site (www.nh.gov/nhes/index.htm).

On the first business day after your day of employment you may apply for unemployment insurance benefits. Please be aware that you must be actively seeking and available for employment during the summer months to qualify for unemployment benefits for that period. 

If you've become unemployed through a non-renewal or have been laid off and you meet the requirements for wages earned for time worked during a certain period, you'll likely qualify for unemployment benefits.

You should file for unemployment compensation quickly because it takes your benefits a couple of weeks to start up. In New Hampshire this is a two step process.

  1. You must file an initial claim which serves as a notice to the Department and your employer that you may claim benefits.
  2. This involves the actual request for payment of benefits that is made each week. You must file your first continued claim between the first Sunday through Saturday period following the week you open your claim, and every week thereafter that you wish to file for benefits.

The application process is painless as long as you have all your documentation collected beforehand. You can apply for unemployment on the internet. We recommend having your federal taxes withheld; otherwise you may find yourself in a financial crunch at tax time.

Visit the State of New Hampshire Department of Employment Security Web site at www.nh.gov/nhes/index.htm  to get details on eligibility requirements and a useful list of unemployment facts. 

What should I do if I become unemployed?

Each time you become unemployed or have your hours of work significantly reduced, file a new claim or reopen an existing claim online at: https://nhuis.nh.gov/claimant/ or visit the nearest NH Employment Security office to file your claim on a computer in their Resource Center. If you do not have access to the Internet or need language assistance, you may call 1-800-266-2252 to speak to a Customer Service Representative .

Have this information ready before you file.

In addition, for each employer you worked for in the past 18 months, have the following information available when you file:

How and when do I file a claim?
Filing a claim is a TWO-STEP process. You must complete BOTH steps to be potentially eligible for payment.

STEP 1: Initial Claim:
This is the first claim you file after becoming unemployed, your first claim in a Benefit Year. It is not a request for compensation, but it serves as a notice to the Department and your employer that you may claim benefits.

STEP 2: Continued Claim:
To file for weekly benefits, go to https://nhuis.nh.gov/claimant/, or call 1-800-266-2252 (or 665-1500 in the Manchester area).
This is the actual request for payment of benefits that is made each week. You must file your first continued claim between the first Sunday through Saturday period following the week you open your claim, and every week thereafter that you wish to file for benefits. You may file your Continued Claim any time of the day or night.
All Continued Claims will be for a one-week period only, and must be filed no later than the Saturday following the week being claimed.

When will I get my check?
After your initial claim is completed, it is immediately transmitted to the Benefit Adjudication Unit for processing. Your monetary eligibility is determined and a Determination of Unemployment Compensation mailed that provides the details of your potential WBA (weekly benefit amount). This document is not a guarantee of payment.
If there are questions on non-monetary eligibility conditions, you may be contacted for additional information. Depending on the number of questions about your claim, if any, you can expect to be contacted and/or receive a Determination of Eligibility within 30 days.
If you are unemployed for any reason other than lack of work, more time may be needed to process your claim. If you are found eligible, checks will be issued for any timely weeks filed at the same time the final non-monetary eligibility determinations are made. Remember to file for weekly benefits (also known as continued claims) according to the instructions provided. You will only receive payment for continued claims that are filed timely.

First Payable Week is Waiting Week

  • The first week determined to be payable for any initial unemployment claim with a Benefit Year Beginning of January 3, 2010 or later will not be paid and will be served as a "waiting week" per new Legislation.
  • You must still file timely for the week and all weeks for which you wish to receive benefits after opening your initial claim.
  • The department will determine which week will be served as the waiting week. This waiting week will not reduce your total available benefits.
  • The Maximum Benefit Amount for a new claim remains 26 times your established Weekly Benefit Amount.

Benefit Amount
In New Hampshire, your Weekly Benefit Amount (WBA) is based on wages you earned in covered employment during the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters preceding the week in which you initiate your claim. The twelve month period of time used to calculate your Weekly Benefit Amount is known as a "Base Period".
To establish a benefit rate, you must have minimum earnings in the Base Period of at least $2,800 and you must have at least two calendar quarters with earnings of $1.

What is my Maximum Weekly Benefit Amount? (WBA)
That is the most you may receive for each week of total unemployment. It is based on your total base period earnings.

What is my Potential Maximum Benefit Amount? (MBA)
That is the potential amount of benefits available to you throughout the Benefit Year. It is usually twenty-six times your maximum weekly benefit amount.

What is meant by "Eligibility"?
In order to be eligible for unemployment compensation, you must meet the following requirements in each week:

  1. You must be totally or partially unemployed. You are totally unemployed for any week in which you did not perform any work and for which you have no wages payable to you. Self-Employment is work and must be reported when you file claims. Work for spouses and/or children, whether compensated or not, must also be reported.
  2. You must register for work to be eligible for benefits, unless you have been specifically exempted. Visit the nearest NH Employment Security office and sign up to use the Job Match System.
  3. The majority of claimants must be available for full-time work on all shifts and during all the hours when the work he/she is qualified to do is normally performed. The law does allow availability for part-time work in specific circumstances when there is a recent history of part-time employment, and/or restrictions to specific shifts due to child care needs or the care of an ill, infirm or physically or mentally disabled family member.*
  4. You must be physically and mentally able to work.
  5. You must actively look for work, keep a list of employers you contact about a job and the activities you perform as part of looking for work, such as websites visited or networking groups you participate in. Each week, you must try to find work on your own by contacting employers who are likely to have work in your usual occupation. If you cannot find work in your regular occupation, you are expected to look for work in other occupations for which you are qualified.
  6. You must file timely claims for benefits.
  7. You must participate in re-employment Services if selected by NH Employment Security.
  8. You must disclose whether or not you are required to make child support payments, or whether you owe an uncollected over-issuance of food stamp coupons.
  9. You must report any refusal of work or referral to work.

Disqualifications

The reasons which I would not be paid benefits?

Reduction of Benefits
For example, untimely filing of claims usually results in loss of benefits for week(s) that were not claimed in a timely manner; voluntarily leaving work without good cause attributable to your employer requires you to return to work for five weeks, earn 20 percent more than your Weekly Benefit Amount, and again become unemployed through no fault of your own. The written Determination of Eligibility you receive will tell you either how long the loss of benefits lasts and/or what you must do to again become eligible.

Employment

The Job Search

Resume

Be sure your resume and cover letter are free of errors and up-to-date. Share them with friends and professional colleagues to review and proof before sending them out to potential employers.

A résumé is a summary of one's educational and professional experience and skills.  In preparing a résumé the writer should focus attention on his/her qualifications and achievements, contributions he/she can make to the employer and the organization, and details supporting his/her application.

The following items should be included in a résumé:

The following items may be included in a résumé when circumstances warrant:

There are three commonly used résumé styles or approaches - historical or chronological, functional, and analytical.

The Qualifications Brief

A qualifications brief is becoming an accepted alternative to a résumé. As opposed to a résumé which summarizes the applicant's experiences, a qualifications brief focuses on the qualities, accomplishments, and special abilities that qualify the applicant for a specific position.  A qualifications brief should:

The qualifications brief generally is written in a narrative format, much as a summary page.  The brief should describe the individual's qualifications with narration that allows one's personality to come through and enhances the document.
Suggestions for Preparing a Résumé or Qualifications Brief

In the Meantime . . .

Licensure: Keeping Your License Current
Even when you are unemployed, renewing your teaching license is part of your professional responsibility. How you achieved your initial certification/licensure and what kind of licensure you want in the future may determine the qualifications you must meet to keep your license current. The requirements for renewal are printed at the bottom of your current certificate/license. Contact the New Hampshire State Department of Education for further assistance.

Managing your Budget
Prioritize your monthly expenditures starting with the things you must have: food, housing, electricity, health and car insurance, etc. Don't forget future expenses when creating your budget such as income or property tax, and any outstanding debts. In these uncertain times it is better to do without now than be struggling later. If you have retained your association membership, check for coupons and savings from your NEA-NH membership card.

Credit

Resources for NEA-NH Members

NEA Member Benefits

Back to "Handbook for Laid-Off School Employees" Introduction.


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