As the #Coronavirus continues to surge, many employers are being forced to make additional reductions to their workforce via layoffs and furloughs.
While many are familiar with what being laid-off means, the previously less-common furlough may not be as well understood. So what does furlough mean for your job security, your rights and your benefits if you are furloughed by your employer?
We'll break this concept down for you so you can be aware of all this and more...
A furlough is a mandatory, unpaid, temporary leave of absence from work. Unlike a layoff, which is a permanent termination, a furlough places your job on hold in the hopes that you will be able to return at a later date determined by your employer.
Furloughs have become increasingly common during the Coronavirus, as many employers are using furlough in anticipation of returning to business post-pandemic. Currently, furloughed workers comprise 59.5% of all unemployed workers. In June alone, 10.6 million workers were temporarily laid off, down from a peak of 18.1 furloughed workers million in April, according to the U.S. Labor Department.
Being furloughed can feel just as devastating as being laid off. You won't be paid for a time, and that lack of income will likely have negative impacts on your life. The difference to employers is that they can save time and money on hiring new workers once they're able to afford their payroll costs, but the difference to you today may not feel as relevant.
The thing to remember is that a furlough basically hits the pause button on your employment. Even if you find and move on to new work within that time, the added security of employment waiting for you (plus the benefits you may keep during furlough) separates those who are furloughed from those who are laid off, in the end.
You are still an employee of the company, unlike someone who was laid off. Ideally, you will be brought back in your original role or position at the same rate of pay. You also have the right to look for temporary work while furloughed, which does not jeopardize your ability to be rehired after the business recovers, so long as you do not accept a new position at a new employer.
Furloughs can go on for as long as the company feels necessary and do not have a set timeline, which can be unsettling. But you are entitled to certain rights and benefits during the interim...
During a furlough, you will not be paid. And because you will not be paid, you are not allowed to partake in any work for your company or employer—they may even revoke access to your work email or deactivate your badge or keys, as businesses are legally obligated to pay employees who break the “no work” rule. These rules are strictly enforced by employers.
Yes, most companies who have furloughed workers are continuing their health care plans, according to Human Resource professionals and labor attorneys. However, it will depend on your employer and its policies. Be sure to check with your individual company and ask when they communicate the terms of your furlough plan.
Yes, you are eligible to collect unemployment benefits and should file on the very first day you are furloughed.
It's important to note that the difference between a furlough and a layoff does not affect your unemployment eligibility and should not impact your claim.
As unemployment benefits vary on a state-by-state basis, make sure to check with your individual state. Nationally though, many waiting periods have been waived due to the ongoing pandemic.
The goal and intent are for you to come back to the same position in the future. Employers often do not specify an end date to a furlough until they are ready to re-open fully. It’s important to remember that many furloughed workers are not able to access their work emails during furlough, so make sure to remain in communication with your HR department or manager directly should the furlough period be shortened or extended.
What tips would you give to someone under furlough now? Share your advice in the comments below...