Furloughed? 5 FAQs About What This Means

June 15, 2020 Christina O'Handley


If you’ve been furloughed by your company, you are not alone. Due to the disruption of COVID-19, millions of people have found themselves in this situation and the numbers could continue to grow. Given how quickly the business landscape changed, your new employment status might feel very unexpected. To prepare for the road ahead and land back on your feet, you will need to be well informed and understand what being furloughed means during this challenging time.

Here are five frequently asked questions about furloughs:

What does it mean to be furloughed?

A furlough is a required unpaid leave of absence for a temporary amount of time. Companies will typically furlough employees when there is not enough work due to a slow period or they do not have enough money to pay their employees. There are a variety of ways organizations may choose to furlough their workers. They may require their staff to take unpaid leave for a long period of time or they may ask employees to reduce their current work schedule and receive reduced compensation.

What is the difference between a layoff and being furloughed?

Although both layoffs and furloughs don’t typically reflect an employee’s performance, a furlough is meant to be a temporary leave of absence while a lay off is permanent. A furloughed employee is still part of an organization and can return to work once conditions change. This allows most furloughed employees to keep employer benefits such as health insurance. A layoff typically happens when an organization realizes that there will not be enough work available in the future and cuts ties with the employee. Laid-off employees will lose their employer benefits but may have severance payouts from the organization they worked for.

Can furloughed employees receive unemployment benefits?

Furloughed employees will need to check with their state unemployment offices for a full scope of their unemployment benefit options. However, furloughed employees can typically seek unemployment benefits at the state level. Along with unemployment, recent legislature called the CARES Act offers additional benefits at the federal level to those who have been furloughed or laid off.

Should furloughed employees search for new jobs?

This answer certainty depends on how you feel about the future outlook of the company. If you feel more confident that you will get called back to work soon, now might be a good time to look for temporary job opportunities to help with cash flow. Just know that doing so may impact any unemployment benefits you’ve applied for. On the other hand, if you feel that your current furlough may turn into a permanent lay off, you should start looking for new roles that are more secure. When doing so, you’ll definitely want to consider the industry you are in. If it was hit hard, you may need to look for new roles outside of this area. That may entail updating your resume or networking to find new opportunities.

How can I resign from my furloughed job?

If you happen to find a new full-time role during this time, congratulations! However, it can be difficult to resign from a job. Especially if you can’t see your supervisor face-to-face to give them the news. Remember to resign in a respectful manner to your current supervisor and show your appreciation to the company. This will set you up for success in your brand new role.

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