Administrative Furlough vs Emergency Furlough

May 15, 2017



Question of the Week: What is the difference between an administrative furlough and an emergency furlough?

A: OPM defines a furlough as the act of placing an employee in a temporary nonduty, non-pay status because of lack of work or funds, or other non-disciplinary reasons. Factors include budget conditions, including sources and other mission priorities.


These happen when an agency needs to make a budgetary cut due to the decrease in funds from the government. They are planned and the time is determined by the agency, which can’t exceed 30 consecutive calendar days or 22 non-continuous work days. If it does, it will become a Reduction in Force, which opens a whole new set of rights.

Agencies must notify all furloughed employees in writing at least 30 days before it takes place and the employee has 7 days to respond both orally and in writing. The agency also determines who will get furloughed.

The only workers fully exempt from an administrative furlough are presidential appointees not covered by the leave system.

Each agency determines administrative furlough time. It may either be entire work days or parts of one. For example, an employee could be furloughed for 4 hours on a given workday. However, this does not affect an employee’s status at full-time or part-time. A furloughed employee can be asked to work outside of his/her normal hours, but the employee would be compensated at their normal rate of pay; there is no overtime pay.

Administrative furloughs may be appealed by the employee within 30 days after the effective date of their first furlough day, or 30 days after they receive their notification, whichever is later. Appeals can involve either the agency’s grievance procedure or the MSPB, but not both. Employees scheduled to be furloughed may also have legal representation during the appeals process.

If agencies are planning to furlough only certain people, they must state the basis for selecting those people in the notification.


An emergency furlough occurs when an agency must shut down part or all its operations due to a funding lapse. They can happen at a moment’s notice and remain in effect until Congress restores funding. These are immediate and employees can’t work until funding is restored.

Agencies must furlough all employees covered by the leave system with limited exception. Those employees maintain their pay grades throughout.

While on either furlough, employees can seek outside sources of income, if they follow their agencies’ guidelines for doing so.

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