State Disability Insurance (SDI) vs. Unemployment Insurance (UI)

  1. What is State Disability Insurance (SDI)?

    State Disability Insurance (SDI) is a California state program administered by the Employment Development Department (EDD).  SDI provides partial wage replacement when a worker is unable to perform their regular or customary work due to physical and mental injuries, illnesses, and other health conditions.  For more information, see our fact sheet entitled “State Disability Insurance (Temporary Disability Benefits).”

  2. What is Unemployment Insurance (UI)?

    Unemployment Insurance (“UI”) is a California state program administered by the Employment Development Department (EDD).  UI benefits provide income to people who are temporarily unemployed or whose work hours have been reduced to a very low level.  For more information, see our fact sheet entitled “Unemployment Insurance: An Overview”.

  3. How do I know which program is right for me?

    If you are ready and able to work but can’t find a job, then UI is the right program for you.  If you cannot work at your regular occupation due to a temporary disability or illness, then SDI is the right program for you.

    In rare situations, you might meet the requirements for both UI and SDI at the same time – you might be unable to do your “regular” occupation due to disability but able to perform other types of work.  In that case, you must choose between the two programs.  If you need help, call our Workers’ Rights Clinic.

  4. I am on SDI and lost my job. What do I do?

    You can remain on SDI even if you lose your job.  As long as your disability prevents you from working in your regular occupation, you are eligible for SDI.

  5. I am on UI but have become temporarily disabled and wouldn’t be able to work if I got a job. What do I do?

    You can apply for SDI even if you aren’t working at the time you become disabled. As long as you were able to work and were actively looking for work at the time you became disabled, you are eligible for SDI.   See Question 8, below, for more information about this situation.

  6. I was on SDI and then UI. Now I am disabled again. Can I go back on SDI?

    Yes. As long as you meet the qualifications for SDI, you can go back on SDI after being on UI.  If you were receiving UI and able to work for more than 14 days, your first period of disability is considered over, and you will need to file a new claim for SDI.  For more information on the requirements for SDI, see our fact sheet entitled “State Disability Insurance (Temporary Disability Benefits).”

  7. I was on UI and then became disabled and began receiving SDI. Now I am looking for work again. Can I go back on UI while I look for work?

    Yes.  You may go back on UI after being on SDI when you begin looking for work again, as long as you meet the other requirements for UI benefits. You may be able to “reopen” your prior UI claim if you did not collect your maximum benefits; otherwise, you may be able to file a new UI claim.  For more information on the requirements for UI, see our fact sheet entitled “Unemployment Insurance: An Overview.”

  8. I have been on UI and now I need to apply for SDI. But I don’t have enough wages in my base period to qualify for SDI. What do I do?

    There are two rules that may help you if you do not have enough earnings in your base period due to unemployment.

    First, if you have an unexpired claim for UI benefits when you are seeking SDI, you may use the same base period that you used for your UI claim.

    Second, if you were unemployed during any quarter of your base period – meaning out of work for 60 or more days and looking for work – you may disregard that quarter and begin your base period three months earlier.  For each quarter you were unemployed, you may go back another quarter.

    More questions?  See our other fact sheets for additional information, or call us for help.

For further information about your employment rights, contact the Workers’ Rights Clinic.

Disclaimer

This Fact Sheet is intended to provide accurate, general information regarding legal rights relating to employment in California. Yet because laws and legal procedures are subject to frequent change and differing interpretations, the Legal Aid Society–Employment Law Center cannot ensure the information in this Fact Sheet is current nor be responsible for any use to which it is put. Do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney or the appropriate agency about your rights in your particular situation.