Misc. Topics • 14 September 2020
Government Furloughs: What to Do When They Happen to You

Between December 22, 2018, and January 25, 2019, the U.S. government experienced a partial shutdown. During this time, many federal employees were furloughed, meaning they didn’t work and they didn’t get paid. Some essential workers were required to work without pay.

Government furloughs can be very disruptive to federal workers. If a furlough goes on for a long time, the financial consequences can be significant. Federal employees should take steps to prepare for the next furlough.


Why Furloughs Happen

According to the , there are two types of furloughs.

· Administrative Furloughs: Agencies plan administrative furloughs in response to downsizing, reduced funding, lack of work, or other budget situations.

· Shutdown Furloughs: Also called emergency furloughs, shutdown furloughs can occur with very little notice. These furloughs are the result of a lapse in appropriations, for example, if no funds have been appropriated for the year or a continuing resolution has expired and a replacement has not been passed.

Shutdown furloughs can happen when a new fiscal year begins without a budget. These furloughs will continue until a budget is passed. Some workers will be exempt because the agency receives funding through another source, and some workers will be excepted because they perform essential duties and must continue to work, but other federal workers will be furloughed.


During a Furlough

While a furlough is ongoing, workers who are not exempt or excepted cannot report to work. Excepted workers who perform essential duties may be required to continue working without pay. Paid time off can also be impacted by a furlough. For example, employees may not be able to take paid time off during a furlough, even if it was previously approved.

However, even if they aren’t working or getting paid, furloughed employees are still considered employees of the federal government. This means that they still need to adhere to the agency’s standards of ethical conduct. Federal workers who want to secure employment outside of their agency during the furlough should make sure this decision would not violate any rules or regulations.

After the furlough ends, furloughed workers must report back to work. Excepted workers who were required to work without pay will be given back pay. Congress may also approve retroactive pay for other furloughed workers, although this isn’t guaranteed.


Planning for the Next Furlough

Shutdown furloughs can occur with little warning. Additionally, once the furlough starts, furloughed federal employees may have trouble getting information because their agency is shut down. This makes it important to plan ahead with the following steps:

  • Find out now how a shutdown furlough would impact your position. Is your position excepted or exempt? How and when will you be paid? How should you find out when the furlough begins and ends 
  • Identify key information sources. If you have questions during a furlough, where can you find answers?
  • Build your personal emergency savings so that you will be covered in case there is a furlough. The 2018/2019 shutdown lasted for about a month, although it was an especially long shutdown furlough. Try to make sure you have enough savings to cover your living expenses during a furlough.

In addition to preparing for furloughs, federal employees should have Federal Employee Professional Liability Insurance (FEPLI). Learn more about this important coverage here.



Article authored by and containing the opinions of Starr Wright USA. This article is offered solely for informational purposes. Starr Wright USA is a marketing name for Starr Wright Insurance Agency, Inc. and its affiliate(s). Starr Wright USA is an insurance agency specializing in insurance solutions for federal employees and federal contractors. For more information, visit  Starr Wright USA is a division of Starr Insurance Companies, which is a marketing name for the operating insurance and travel assistance companies and subsidiaries of Starr International Company, Inc. and for the investment business of C.V. Starr & Co., Inc.


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