Like many states, the state of Washington requires a waiting week when you apply for unemployment benefits. This week helps preserve the spirit of the unemployment benefits program. When you apply for benefits from the state's Employment Security Department, you must give them your last day of work so they can calculate your waiting week requirement. Then you have to certify for that week, even though you won't receive a payment, so the ESD can count it.
The waiting rule requires that you be unemployed for one full week before you can begin accruing benefits. If your unemployment claim is for loss of work instead of total unemployment, the loss of work must be in place for seven full days. During the waiting week, you will not receive any unemployment payments.
The purpose of the waiting week is to prevent Washington state from paying out extremely small claims. Without it, the ESD would be forced to send checks for two or three days of unemployment when you experience a short unemployment stint. Another reason for the waiting week is to encourage you to immediately begin searching for new employment. Knowing that it make take more than two weeks to actually receive a payment may make you more willing to find a new position as soon as possible.
You report your waiting week to the ESD during your initial claims and the weekly claims process. On the initial application, you give your last day of work or the date you became unemployed. A couple of days later, you'll receive a Statement of Benefits with notice of whether you're approved and what day you should certify for your payments if you are approved. The first time you certify, you'll be doing so for your waiting week and won't receive a payment. The second time you certify, which will happen the following week, you'll be certifying for your first payment and receive it several days later.
Failure to accurately report your last day of work will result in an inaccurate waiting week. If you are found purposely misrepresenting or lying about your work details to avoid serving your waiting week, you will have to pay back the benefits your receive in error. You may also have to serve penalty weeks, which are weeks you qualify for unemployment but can't receive your payments as a punishment for past unemployment fraud. It is also possible to be prosecuted in a criminal court.