Furlough and Emergency Lay-off FAQs The following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are provided to define furlough and Emergency Lay-off, which are used as synonymous terms in the context of the Communicable Disease Emergency policy. It outlines when and how an agency may implement such actions and provides guidance for impacted state employees. Additional FAQs are provided on the Safe Return to Worksites page to help state employees understand necessary safety changes to guide the structured, orderly and incremental return to worksites, as well as inform them of ways to protect themselves from COVID-19-related risks. As COVID-19 conditions continue to evolve, these resources will be updated as needed. Employees are encouraged to contact their Agency Human Resources Office regarding specific concerns and how topics may impact them. Updated Dec. 11, 2020 Furlough and Emergency Lay-off FAQs What is a furlough? A furlough is the placement of an employee in a temporary non-duty, non-pay status because of lack of work or funds, or other non-disciplinary reasons. For the purpose of this document, furlough and Emergency Lay-off in the Communicable Disease Emergency policy are equivalent. How can a furlough be implemented? An agency may furlough all or only a portion of their employees. The furlough may be implemented as a full or partial reduction in work hours. A furlough can be implemented in any reasonable, lawful arrangement. How much advanced notice must be provided to employees before implementing a furlough? Although there is no legal requirement to provide any amount of advanced notice to employees before implementing a furlough, employees should be provided as much notification as possible, including information about return-to-work processes. How do I account for my time in the Integrated HR Payroll System during a furlough? During a partial furlough: Employees will enter A/A Type Code 9400 (Leave without Pay) for days that are not worked as part of a partial furlough. During full furlough: Employees will not code time during full furlough. The agency will process a leave of absence action. Will employees get paid for a holiday that occurs during the furlough? Yes, an employee is eligible for a holiday when the employee is: in pay status through the holiday, or in pay status for one-half or more of the workdays and holidays in the month when a short leave without pay is involved. For example, if an employee is on a one-week furlough for the first week of November, and in pay status for the remainder of November, the employee would get paid for the Thanksgiving holidays. If the employee is on a one-month full furlough beginning November 1 and ending November 30, the employee would not get paid for the Thanksgiving holidays. Does a furlough affect the accrual of vacation leave and sick leave? During a partial furlough: An employee is eligible for normal vacation and sick leave accrual when the employee is in pay status for one-half or more of the workdays and holidays in the month. For example, if an employee is on a one-week furlough for the first week of November, and in pay status for the remainder of November, the employee would accrue his or her normal rate of vacation leave and sick leave for November. For full furlough: Vacation and sick leave will continue to accrue during the layoff to be credited to the employee’s account upon return from the furlough Will an employee continue to be covered under the State Health Plan during the furlough? Employees who are furloughed are entitled to participate in the State Health Plan. State agencies shall pay the employer contribution. The agency may also pay the employee contribution for the month following the furlough, with the provision that the employees shall repay the State for any contribution made on their behalf. The employee remains responsible for their share of the premium. For example, the employee remains responsible for their portion of the family plan. The agency/university HR Office will make provisions to assist the employee with payments What happens to an employee’s NCFlex Flexible Spending Health Care and/or Dependent Care coverage when furloughed? Partial furlough: Payroll deductions for NCFlex benefits will continue if employees remain in pay status. In addition, COVID-19 is a qualifying life event, and an employee can adjust their flexible spending when impacted by a furlough. Full furlough: Effective January 1, 2021, an employee on full furlough will be responsible for any Flexible Spending Health Care or Dependent Care contributions, if they are eligible for and choose to continue membership through COBRA. What happens to an employee’s coverage under the NCFlex insurance programs if furloughed? Partial furlough: Payroll deductions for NCFlex benefits will continue if employees remain in pay status. Full furlough: Effective January 1, 2021, an employee on full furlough will be responsible for any premiums related to NCFlex plans or products, if they are eligible for and choose to continue coverage through COBRA or portability options. Does an agency continue paying weekly workers’ compensation benefits for employees completely out of work or working light duty during their agency’s furlough? State law requires the payment of workers’ compensation benefits due. An employee on workers’ compensation leave of absence who is not working at all is not included in the furlough. If such employee is released to return to full or light duty work during the furlough period, 100% weekly workers’ compensation benefits will still be due unless the employee starts working another job. An employee working less than 40 hours per week due to a workers’ compensation injury is included in the furlough and 100% weekly workers’ compensation benefits will be due for the duration of the furlough unless the employee starts working another job. Does an agency continue to pay an employee for Short-Term Disability (STD) during furlough Yes, since the employee is still receiving benefits and not separated, the individual would still be considered employed and eligible for short-term disability benefits. Since the member is not getting paid regular wages and not contributing to the retirement system, then the member would not receive retirement service credit, but may be able to purchase retirement service credit at a later date. An employee out on short-term disability (STD) is not included in a furlough. Will the furlough impact an employee if they retire this year or the next four (4) years? Yes, this is possible because there will be a reduction in the employee’s paycheck(s). Retirement is computed using an employee’s average final compensation during their four (4) highest paid years for forty-eight (48) consecutive months. Is the period of furlough considered a break in service? No, an employee will continue to receive total State service while on furlough. May a furloughed employee take previously approved paid leave (annual, sick, civil leave, military leave, etc.) during the furlough period? No, approved paid leave cannot replace assigned furlough time. If an employee is on a partial furlough and has been approved for paid leave, as long as the personal leave does not impact business operations and the employee and supervisor agree upon furlough days during the partial furlough, an employee may take the approved leave. How does FML and furlough time interact? Days associated with a furlough period will not be counted against an employee’s 12-week FMLA leave entitlement. However, FML does not prevent an employee from being furloughed. For example, if an employee is on FML for 12-weeks and is furloughed for four weeks, upon return the employee is still entitled to the remaining balance. May an employee volunteer to do his or her job on a non-pay basis during a furlough? No. What happens to employees scheduled for training or travel during a furlough? Training or travel schedules need to be adjusted to prevent employees from working during the furlough period. Will an employee be able to receive on-call status pay during furlough time? Maybe, depending upon the employee’s schedule. They will not receive any on-call pay during days they are in furlough status. For example, if an employee worked Monday through Thursday and they were on-call on Wednesday and furloughed on Friday, they would only receive on-call pay for Wednesday. May employees take other jobs while on furlough? Yes, however, during a furlough, an individual remains an employee of the State of North Carolina. Dual employment and Secondary Employment policies continue to apply. Before engaging in outside employment, the employee should talk with his or her supervisor to ensure compliance with policy and obtain agency approval. Are employees who have been furloughed eligible for Employee Assistance Program (EAP) services through McLaughlin-Young Group? Yes. Furloughed employees may access the NC EAP provided by the McLaughlin Young Group 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by calling 1-888-298-3907 or 704-717-5295, or visit https://www.mygroup.com. There is no cost to the employee or the employee’s immediate household family members and the services are confidential. Are employees eligible for unemployment because of a furlough? It depends on the impact of the furlough on an employee’s work hours. For more information on unemployment compensation, please contact the North Carolina Division of Employment Security at des.nc.gov/ for further details. Are furloughed employees still eligible for longevity pay? Yes, a furloughed employee will continue to receive total State service during a full furlough. The employee will receive his or her longevity pay when the employee returns to full service or is separated.