Bridge Insights

What is the Difference Between Furlough and Layoff?

May 1, 2020

In light of recent events, citizens of Illinois and throughout the nation are grappling with the stress of employment uncertainty. Within these uncertain times, many professionals have found themselves without a job.

As a professional, it is important to understand the difference between being laid off and being furloughed. Many times when applicants are asked the question, “Why did you leave your last position?”, they will answer with a generic, “I was let go”, but, in actuality, being let go means something else entirely to your interviewer, and it’s probably not what you intended to say.

So what does it mean to be furloughed or laid off? Let’s break it down:

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What Does It Mean to Be Furloughed?

According to the Hartford Group, a furlough is “time off without pay.” Based on your employer and the state in which you are employed, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits. There is no minimum or maximum length of time an employee can be furloughed. When furloughed, you are still an employee of your company.

Whether employers will continue to provide health benefits during the furlough varies from employer to employer. Regardless of whether or not a business chooses to provide employee benefits to their furloughed employees, when a furloughed employee returns to work, their employee benefits will continue.

[blockquotes color=”accent” quote=”no”]Saying you were let go when you were truly laid off will give people the (wrong) impression you were fired, when, in reality, your employment ended because of something out of your control[/blockquotes]

What Does It Mean to Be Laid Off?

When an employee is laid off, the employment agreement between employer and employee is being terminated. When people hear the word “terminated”, their brain automatically goes to “fired”, but being fired is not the same thing as being laid off.

Unlike someone who is furloughed, being laid off means there is no job to come back to—the position has been dissolved. There are situations where a company may choose to reopen the closed role at a later time, but there is no guarantee this will happen, nor is it guaranteed you will be rehired.

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Why Is This Important?

Down the road, when you are asked in an interview why you left a position, it is important to understand the different connotations your response can carry. Hiring managers tend to be more sympathetic to someone who was laid off compared to the individual who was fired. Saying you were let go when you were truly laid off will give people the (wrong) impression you were fired, when, in reality, your employment ended because of something out of your control.

If you are unsure about whether you were laid off or furloughed, reach out to your company’s HR department. They are there to help and guide you during these unprecedented times to answer any and all questions about your job status you may have.

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