During the 2022 Legislative session, the Iowa Legislature drastically reduced the number of weeks employees may receive unemployment compensation from twenty-six, which was consistent with the vast majority of states, to sixteen. The Legislature also expanded the definition of misconduct to include specific offenses listed in Chapter 96. Most important, the Legislature changed the preamble to the Act, making clear that the purpose of Iowa’s unemployment compensation statute was no longer to aid the most vulnerable of Iowa’s workers, who lost employment through no fault of their own. Over the years, the Federation has provided a pamphlet to Local Unions to help aid members in applying for unemployment compensation and answering questions. Below is the updated version of the pamphlet reflecting the 2022 changes to the statute.

What is the unemployment insurance program?

The Iowa unemployment insurance program provides qualified workers temporary income to help them through short periods of unemployment. Employers pay a special tax, which goes into a fund that is used exclusively to pay unemployment claims. This program is administered by the Iowa Department of Workforce Development.

If a worker meets the statutory requirements for unemployment insurance, it is the worker’s RIGHT to receive benefits. A worker, however, must meet a number of conditions to qualify for and receive benefits. This booklet is intended to give you a brief overview of important features of the unemployment insurance program.

What are the basic eligibility requirements?

You must be a citizen or permanent legal alien lawfully authorized to work who is either totally or partially unemployed through no fault of your own. You must have worked and earned a certain amount of wages in work covered by unemployment insurance in the last fifteen to eighteen months. You must have total base-period earnings of at least 1.25 times the wages you earned in your highest base-period quarter. You must have a minimum amount of wages in the high and low quarters of your base period.

  • For Program Year 7/02/2017-7/1/2018:
  • High-Quarter Minimum = $1,570.00
  • Low-Quarter Minimum = $780.00

The minimum and maximum amounts change each year for new claims filed after the first Sunday in July. A weekly benefit amount schedule is available upon request at your nearest IowaWORKS Center.

You also must be “able, available, and actively seeking work” for each week for which you will receive benefits. And, you must have lost your job through no fault of your own.

What changed with the new 2022 unemployment legislation?

The base period is a four-quarter (one-year) period of time from which your weekly benefit amount (WBA) and maximum benefit amount (MBA) are determined. The amount of wages you earn in the base period determines the amount of unemployment benefits you receive. The base period is the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters at the time you file your initial claim for benefits. The quarter in which you file your claim and the preceding quarter are called the lag quarters and normally are not used to determine your benefits.

Example: If you file a new claim in April, May, or June (second quarter), your base period would be the preceding January 1 through December 31.

Will I have to look for work other than at the Workforce Development Center Office?

Yes. Everyone is required to make a minimum of two job contacts each week unless otherwise specified by Iowa Workforce Development. Keep in mind the following:

  • Your work search must be a reasonable and honest effort to find suitable work and you must be willing to accept a reasonable wage in your area for the job for which you are applying.
  • Your job contacts must be made between Sunday and Saturday of the week you are claiming benefits. You may make your job contacts in person, by Internet, by on-line applications, mail, or faxing resumes. Telephone calls are not acceptable.
  • Repeat or follow-up work searches may be made to the same employer after six weeks from the initial contact.
  • You are required to keep a record of your job contacts for one year and be prepared to provide a copy if requested by Iowa Workforce Development. You need to include the date of the contact, company name, address, phone number, the name of the person you contacted, method of contact – i.e. in-person, online, etc., and result of communication.
  • Be prepared to prove that you applied for work in person whenever you reported you did. If possible, take someone with you on your job search. Get the name of the person with whom you talked, his/her position, and the date. Ask for a copy of your completed application for your files.
  • Do not confine your job search to one area or a single occupation or employer. Apply to a variety of employers and in a variety of occupations.
  • Members of a Union hiring hall are required to be in good standing and must contact the Union in accordance with the Hall rules.

Must I be able and available every day I am laid off?

You must be able and available for work the majority of each workweek.

What if I am offered a job?

If you are offered a job, you will have to decide if the job is suitable for you. If you turn down suitable employment, you will be disqualified for receipt of further benefits. You should remember the following points:

  • In order for a ruling to be made that you turned down “suitable work,” a bona fide offer of work has to be made. A bona fide offer should include wages, hours, type of work to be done, and commencement date of the job.
  • The job offered must be within your physical capabilities and must not require any undue physical skill or particular training which you do not already possess. You can demand wages as follows:

Weeks of Unemployment

Percentage of Wage in Highest Quarter

1 to 5


6 to 12


13 to 18


After 18


  • If the Workforce Development Center calls and offers you a referral, you must go talk to the employer.
  • The Workforce Development Center also considers other factors besides wages when deciding if a job is suitable. If you have a job offer and don’t know what to do, tell the employer you need time to think it over and contact your Union office, Legal Services office, or other knowledgeable persons for advice.
  • You are not required to take a job that is vacant as a result of a strike or labor dispute.