As job losses mount across the nation, people have started hearing more about two distinct forms of unemployment:
- A furlough
- A lay off.
Although these two terms are sometimes grouped together under the umbrella term of “unemployment,” there are distinct differences between being furloughed and being laid off.
These differences shape both the actions one may take upon becoming unemployed, as well as the type of benefits a person may receive.
What is the difference between being furloughed and being laid off?
Furloughed workers keep their status as an employee and generally keep the benefits that come along with that status.
A furlough is not permanent. The employee is expected to return to work. Sometimes during a furlough, an employee just works fewer hours than he/she/they did before.
In this type of working relationship, the employer normally sets the terms and duration of the furlough.
On the other hand, when a worker is laid off, the relationship with their employer is permanently severed. Someone that is laid off will no longer receive the rights and benefits that they once had as an employee. And obviously, they are no longer paid.
If you are laid off, hopefully, your employer will give you some money on the way out the door in the form of severance.
Can you collect unemployment if you’ve been furloughed?
Yes. However, the amount of money you receive will vary by state.
Under the CARES Act, an employee who has been furloughed because of the pandemic may be eligible for federal unemployment benefits in addition to state unemployment benefits.
Federal benefits may net you an extra $600 per week.
Do furloughed employees need to look for another job?
In order to collect state-level unemployment, most states require people who were laid off to provide some sort of proof that they are looking for work.
Furloughed individuals are not expected to do the same, as they still retain their status as an employee.
Does my employer need to still cover my healthcare during the furlough?
Furloughed workers are still technically employed, so in the majority of cases, they should still be allowed to retain access to group healthcare.
Some employers choose to disqualify furloughed employees from receiving health coverage and other benefits usually conferred upon employees.
If healthcare coverage is not provided to furloughed workers, they must designate the furlough as a Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA)- qualifying event. COBRA helps employees continue to access their health benefits.
Here, we’ve listed the state-level unemployment guidelines for furloughed employees in New York, California, Illinois, Texas, and Florida.
New York provides unemployment insurance to workers who have lost their job, or a significant portion of their working hours, due to no fault of their own.
In New York, you can technically still work, and collect unemployment at the same time. Employees who work fewer than four days per week, but make less than $504 each week, may be eligible for unemployment benefits.
New York requires people to file claims for unemployment insurance on a weekly basis.
Employees in California are eligible for unemployment insurance benefits if they have been laid off, furloughed, or have had their hours and/or compensation significantly reduced.
The state recently developed a web page to explain the pandemic’s impact on unemployment in California.
In Illinois, furloughed workers are encouraged to apply for unemployment benefits. The amount a worker receives varies significantly depending on an individual’s earnings.
Those who have dependents or a non-working spouse may also be eligible for additional weekly benefits, depending on their income.
In Florida, furloughed workers are encouraged to apply for unemployment benefits, even if they are still working, but working fewer hours than they once did.
In Florida, eligibility is based on weekly earnings and not the number of hours worked. This is policy is significant because it greatly helps furloughed workers to receive much-needed unemployment benefits.
In Texas, it is recommended that anybody who is working reduced hours due to COVID-19 apply for unemployment benefits through the Texas Workforce Commission.
No matter where you live, the best way to determine unemployment eligibility is to simply apply for unemployment, even if you are still working to some extent.
This article is intended to convey generally useful information only and does not constitute legal advice. Any opinions expressed are solely those of the author, not LawChamps.
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