For additional information on administrative, planned furloughs please review the following guidance provided by the Office of Personnel Management.
(As of January 11, 2013)
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Sequestration is an across-the-board reduction in federal budgetary resources in all budget accounts that have not been exempted by statute. Under the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985, as amended by the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, across-the-board reductions are scheduled to take effect on March 1, 2013, unless legislation is enacted that avoids such reductions. If it occurs, this sequestration will reduce each agency's budgetary resources in non-exempt accounts for the remainder of the fiscal year (which runs through September 30, 2013).
A furlough is the placing of an employee in a temporary nonduty, nonpay status because of lack of work or funds, or other nondisciplinary reasons.
An administrative furlough is a planned event by an agency that is designed to absorb reductions necessitated by downsizing, reduced funding, lack of work, or any other budget situation other than a lapse in appropriations. Furloughs that would potentially result from sequestration would generally be considered administrative furloughs. For more information on administrative furloughs, see OPM's Guidance for Administrative Furloughs.
In contrast, where there is a lapse in appropriations, a "shutdown" furlough may occur. A shutdown furlough is necessary when an agency no longer has the funds necessary to operate and must shut down those activities that are not excepted under the Antideficiency Act. Many federal employees may be familiar with these types of furloughs from instances in previous years in which the government has faced a potential shutdown. For additional information on shutdown furloughs see OPM's guidance for shutdown furloughs related to potential lapse in appropriations at OPM's Furlough Guidance.
Agencies are responsible for identifying the employees affected by administrative furloughs based on budget conditions, funding sources, mission priorities, and other factors. See also Procedures and Labor Management Relations Implications on pages 10-21 of OPM's Guidance for Administrative Furloughs.
An agency has discretion to identify which employees will be furloughed and when to schedule furloughs based on its particular needs and mission. An agency should engage in pre-decisional consultation with the exclusive bargaining representative regarding the exercise of its discretion. To the extent required by law or applicable collective bargaining agreement, agencies must bargain with employees' exclusive representative before implementing a furlough.
Employees who are scheduled to work on March 1, 2013, should report for work. Under sequestration, agencies would still have funds available after March 1, but the overall funding for the remainder of the fiscal year would be reduced. This means that agencies will not be executing any immediate personnel actions, such as furloughs, on March 1. If furloughs or other personnel actions prove to be necessary, agencies will provide affected employees the requisite advance notice.
Each agency will determine the method and timing of notifying employees of whether they are affected by an administrative furlough, subject to applicable laws, regulations and collective bargaining agreements. Different notification requirements apply, depending on the length of the furlough, and are established by law. As a general matter, employees would be provided at least 30 days notification for an administrative furlough scheduled for 22 workdays or less, and at least 60 days notification for an administrative furlough scheduled for more than 22 workdays. See Procedures-22 Workdays or Less and Procedures-More than 22 Workdays (Extended Furlough) on pages 10-18 of OPM's Guidance for Administrative Furloughs. In addition to these requirements, specialized notification procedures may apply to particular agencies, where imposed by other laws.
Employees should contact their human resources office for information about how sequestration will impact them and whether they may be furloughed. Bargaining unit employees may also contact their union representatives.
Detailed employees remain officially assigned to their permanent positions during the detail. During a furlough, each agency will determine the status of their employees on detail within the agency or to another agency.
Employees who are furloughed are not separated from Federal service. They are placed in a temporary nonduty, nonpay status.
No. Unless otherwise authorized by law, an agency may not accept the voluntary services of an employee. (See 31 U.S.C. 1342.)
An administrative furlough will impact each agency differently depending on the extent of the agency's budget reduction. Agencies may need to schedule and implement furloughs in a manner so as to be able to absorb budget reductions over the course of the fiscal year. For example, an agency may furlough employees for one day per pay period for a finite period of time; designate a number of furlough hours that employees must take; designate specific dates as furlough days off; or allow employees to select their own furlough time off.
Yes. Agencies have discretion to schedule an administrative furlough in a variety of ways. See Scheduling Furlough Time Off on page 9 of OPM's Guidance for Administrative Furloughs. For example, OPM encourages agencies to take into account the effect of commuting when multiple partial furlough days are scheduled.
No. Because furloughed employees are not separated from federal service, they are not entitled to severance pay.
While on furlough, an individual remains an employee of the federal government. Therefore, executive branch-wide standards of ethical conduct and rules regarding outside employment continue to apply when an individual is furloughed (specifically, the executive branch-wide standards of ethical conduct at 5 CFR part 2635). In addition, there are specific statutes that prohibit certain outside activities, and agency-specific supplemental rules that require prior approval of, and sometimes prohibit, outside employment. Before engaging in outside employment, employees should review these regulations and then consult their agency ethics official to learn if there are any agency-specific supplemental rules governing the employee.
It is possible that furloughed employees may become eligible for unemployment compensation. State unemployment compensation requirements differ. Some states require a 1-week waiting period before an individual qualifies for payments. In general, the law of the state in which an employee's last official duty station in federal civilian service was located will be the state law that determines eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits. (see Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees on the Department of Labor website) Agencies or employees should submit questions to the appropriate state (or District of Columbia) office. The Department of Labor's website provides links to individual state offices at America's Service Locator.
Generally, furlough time off is treated like regular leave without pay (LWOP) for leave accrual and benefit purposes. Detailed guidance can be found under Benefits and Service Credit for Various Purposes on pages 6-8 of OPM's Guidance for Administrative Furloughs. Also see Fact Sheet: Effect of Extended Leave Without Pay (LWOP) (or Other Nonpay Status) on Federal Benefits and Programs for information on the effect of extended LWOP or other nonpay status on federal benefits and programs.
Yes. Employees may be furloughed for periods of time that include federal holidays. However, an agency should select the furlough days off on programmatic and administrative grounds that are unrelated to the fact that the period includes a holiday. For example, an agency may not properly furlough employees for a 3-day period, the middle of which is a holiday, for the sole purpose of saving 3 days' pay while losing only 2 days of work, nor would it be proper to furlough an employee solely on a holiday.
Agencies continue to be responsible for the agency contribution of any furloughed employees and each employee remains responsible for his or her employee contribution. If an employee's paycheck is insufficient to cover his/her share, the enrollee share will accumulate and will then be withheld from pay upon return to pay status. Detailed guidance on employee benefits during an administrative furlough is found on page 6 of OPM's Guidance on Administrative Furloughs.
Both Voluntary Early Retirement Authority (VERA) and Voluntary Separation Incentive Payments (VSIP) are programs to incentivize voluntary separations to avoid involuntary personnel actions associated with an agency's decision to restructure its workforce. Agencies with OPM-approved VERA and or VSIP may continue offering these options to covered employees during a furlough.
VERA and VSIP result in permanent separations from the agency workforce (please note that VSIP recipients may not be reemployed by the federal government within 5 years unless they repay the VSIP to the agency that paid it). Furloughs are associated with temporary issues, such as lack of work or funds, with the intention that employees would return to their jobs after the furlough.