Top Questions Employees Are Asking About Furloughs—And How You Can Answer Them

Keca Ward

The function of HR has changed overnight with the recent coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Leaders are in rapid discussions with executives regarding furloughs, reduction in force, and layoffs to help their businesses stay afloat. Employees have concerns and are witnessing well-established companies—especially in airline and hotel industries—implement reductions in staff.

Most experts agree that the COVID-19 pandemic is going to affect most organizations' workforce in one way or another. If your company is experiencing a hiring freeze and furloughs, employees may have a lot of questions regarding expectations.

Here are some of the most common ones, and answers you can share to help them gain clarity.

 

What is a furlough?

A furlough is a mandatory, temporary, unpaid leave. A furlough is considered to be an alternative to layoff. 

 

How long can I be furloughed?  

An employer can furlough a worker for a short time, such as a few weeks, or for several months. 

 

Can I collect unemployment benefits on a furlough? 

In most cases, yes. Furloughed, full-time workers typically qualify for unemployment assistance, so they would receive all of the enhanced benefits under the stimulus package. Checking with your county and state requirements is always recommended.

 

Can I work while I am on a furlough? 

This answer is always no. There are no exceptions to this rule—this includes any and all work. There should be no communication with furloughed workers, and day-to-day communications such as email, Slack, and text are not permitted. 

 

Can I keep my benefits as a furloughed worker?  

For the majority of organizations, this answer is typically yes. Most employers will continue medical and other insurances, such as life insurance. It is always a good idea to check with your broker and those that manage your benefits for accurate information.  

 

As you address employee questions and concerns, over-communication can go a long way in helping everyone adjust. Above all, being a transparent and trustworthy source of support is the best way to help employees navigate uncertainty. 


For more information on how to respond to this dynamic situation, I encourage you to check out the CDC’s Resources for Businesses & Employers.

To learn more about driving employee engagement in the virtual workplace, join us for a webinar on Wednesday, April 8.