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Furloughed? 5 Things to Consider When Asked to Return to Work

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You've Been Asked to Return to Work from Furlough - You Have a Choice to Make You've Been Asked to Return to Work from Furlough - You Have a Choice to Make

5 Things to Consider if You Find Yourself Hesitant to Return to Work from Furlough

You were furloughed earlier this year, along with over 33 million other American employees. At first you were disappointed and worried. Then you realized, due to the CARES Act, you are making more money while collecting unemployment than you were when you actually worked. If you have children in daycare you've also decreased your expenses by not having to pay childcare - since they're home with you now. You're thinking, "This isn't so bad!"

Then you receive the email or phone call from your employer. They're ready to open back up and need you to return to work. Instead of being excited about going back, you find yourself trying to figure out how to delay the return. You're thinking about the money you feel you will "lose" when you return. If you have children at home, you have to arrange and pay for daycare. You may even be nervous, healthwise, to go back - even though you or a family member don't fall into a high-risk category.

You've heard from friends and family how they were able to extend their leave so they could continue to receive more money while unemployed, and delay the "pay-cut" they will eventually "receive" when they return. You're thinking, "This sounds like a good idea!"

But is it? Is it really the best choice for you to make - long-term? It may not be.

I posed the question below to hiring managers and others in the workforce. Below is a recap of their thoughts. After hearing their responses, you may decide to reconsider declining your employer's invitation. (Please note, several respondents requested their names not be used. For those individuals, I simply refer to them as a hiring manager or other position.)

Question: "Would you mind sharing your advice to an employee who is deciding whether or not to return from furlough, especially ones who are receiving more income while unemployed than they will when they return?"

Five main themes kept recurring in the advice shared:

  • CARES Act $600 payments will end - then what?
  • Refusal to return to work can result in loss of all unemployment
  • Employee refusal to return from furlough sends negative messages to the employer
  • The job market will become competitive
  • Use the furloughed time to re-skill or up-skill


1 - CARES Act $600 additional payments will end

Currently, the $600 bonus unemployment benefits are scheduled to end July 31, 2020. Once it ends individuals still collecting unemployment will then be receiving less than what they would earn if they had returned to work. Then what? The job you declined will, most likely, have already been filled.

Career transition coach, Anne Crawford, points out, "This [CARES Act bonus money and receiving more while on unemployment than working] cannot go on forever. Guess what? Employers cannot reopen without employees. If they are ready to open their doors now and bring you back, and you decide that you love the money more, you will be out of luck. There are thousands of people who will take your place. You are crippling the one business that gave you a paycheck all these years."


2 - Refusal to return to work may place your unemployment and CARES Act dollars at risk

Over this past weekend I was chatting with a friend. He had been unemployed, benefitting from the CARES Act bonus. He, along with other furloughed coworkers, were called back to work. He accepted. At least one coworker declined. The employer reported the refusal to return to work to unemployment. The coworker lost all of his unemployment benefits. All of them!

When an employee has been laid-off they are typically required to show they are looking for work in order to continue receiving unemployment benefits. Several states, including Massachusetts, have waived this requirement if the employee has been furloughed due to COVID-19. In that case, it is expected the employee returns to work as soon as their position is available again.

If you have been furloughed and refuse to return to work you risk losing all of your unemployment benefits. As one hiring manager points out, there is an allure to staying on furlough due to the increased income, however, it is a short-term gain. Are you willing to gain financially in the short-run, but lose out in the long-run? In addition, the message you are sending your employer can hurt you, career wise, both in the short-term and long-term.


3 - Declining to return to work sends a negative message to employers

Employers are looking for team players, individuals committed to service and to the success of a business. After all, if a business cannot provide service, it will not succeed and will have to close its doors. One manager stated, "I feel that by not returning when called upon, a person is exhibiting a form of disrespect to their employer and is putting unnecessary strain on the company that otherwise afforded them a means to earn a living. I'm fortunate to work for a very good company that takes care of its employees. I realize not all are quite a fortunate, but I believe in reciprocity and being a good employee when the company has been a good employer."

Another hiring manager mentioned that "some employees are trying to use their situation as a bargaining chip to try and get more money. That's not going to work because there will be many choices [candidates] for the hiring manager to select from." When employees are interviewing candidates and realize they had refused to return from furlough to a previous position, this can play into their decision to move a candidate forward in the hiring process. If they weren't a team player to a previous employer during difficult times, will they be a team player now?

What message do you want to send to your current or future employer?


4 - The job market will become competitive

Revisiting the first point, the additional unemployment benefits will end - and it will end - at the same time for everyone. What impact will that have on the job market? One hiring manager pointed out, "I believe there will be a flood of workers trying to get back into the workforce all at once. They started collecting around the same time and payments will end at the same time. A scary thought if you ask me."

Employees who are hoping to rid the wave of extra cash for as long as possible, thinking once it ends they will easily and quickly step back into the workforce, may want to reevaluate. Businesses have changed. Many companies will look different when they reopen. They may have had to downsize, which will result in fewer employees being brought back. Some companies will not survive, resulting in their employees being unemployed and having to join the job search pool.

One hiring manager points out that the jobs will be limited and the pool of candidates will be large and favorable for hiring managers. If you are hesitant to return to your previous position because you were unhappy there, it may still be in your best interest to return while looking for a new company to work for. You will stand out in a large pool of candidates - in a positive way.

Anne Crawford states, "From the moment you started collecting that extra payment, there are things you should have been doing. If you had a great job you loved you should have kept in constant touch with your boss or management, to make sure they realize how indispensable you are to their organization." Or you could be re-skilling or up-skilling during your time off (refer to point #5 below).

Anne also advises, "Companies are reinventing themselves right now, and unless you want to be left behind, or laid off permanently, you must go back to work as soon as your employer needs you. If you disliked your boss or company so much you feel healthier away from them, then you have two choices: search job boards [and continue to network] for new employment or go back to work to build back your credit score, skill sets, and feel in control of your finances, while still looking behind the scenes for a career that matches your business and personal ethics."


5 - Re-skill and up-skill while on furlough

If you're currently furloughed, this is a great time to improve your skills, putting you in a position to make a possible career move or position change.

Megan Branch, CertNexus' chief operating and product manager officer, states, "With additional income from the federal government, it is a great opportunity to invest in yourself and explore new career opportunities... We know that the additional income will not last forever and are seeing a number of individuals use some of their stimulus to up-skill and re-skill, so that their income upon return [to work] has the opportunity to match what they are receiving during furlough. There are also many states that are offering additional grants for training. Emerging roles in technology such as cybersecurity, AI [artificial intelligence], and data science offer the greatest opportunity globally for re-entry into a higher salaried career upon return. Many larger companies that have furloughed employees have assistance programs for skill development and training that employees can take advantage of as well."

Anne Crawford recommends furloughed employees ask themselves, "When this extra payment ends [and it will], do I want to go back to the same career as before?" This is a great time to "reinvent yourself... gain new skills, take a course which will build your reputation, and look at job titles that pique your interest." Many of her clients have used this time to start a side business, investigating idea sources and costs, while being at home.


Is declining to return to work the best choice for you?

You may be reading this and thinking, "These are not the reasons I'm not wanting to go back to work. It's because I have serious underlying health issues that put me at high risk." If this is the case, speak with your manager. Be honest about your concerns and health issues. As one hiring manager states, "As long as the reason for staying away is reasonable, I will give them the benefit of doubt."

If you're refusing, or considering refusing to return to work when asked, simply because you are currently making more or have less childcare expenses than pre-pandemic, you may want to reconsider. Remember, if you don't go back to your job, your employer will hire someone else - they have to in order to stay in business. Are you prepared to join a competitive job market when your additional unemployment benefits run out in a month?

If your job has not opened back up yet, what are you doing to put yourself in the best position, whether it's going back to the same company or having to look for a new job?

These are challenging and changing times. Make sure you're doing whatever you can to take control of your future!

Sources used throughout this article:


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