A furlough (pronounced /ˈfɜrloʊ/; from Dutch: "verlof") is a temporary leave of absence from employment, duty in the armed services, or from a prison term. It may be voluntary or involuntary. It is usually unpaid.
Voluntary furloughs from employment or armed services are essentially a vacation (holiday), though those who take it may also pursue other activity. In some Commonwealth nations (such as Australia and New Zealand), a furlough is an employee benefit known as long service leave. Involuntary furloughs from employment may be mandated by employers.
A furlough can also refer to time off based on a company-planned schedule. For example, with a "work 3 weeks, off 1 week" schedule, a company's workforce is divided into 4 groups. Each group, in turn, takes a week off on furlough while the remainder work. In other cases, a furlough is more like a temporary layoff, which may be due to economic conditions at the specific employer or in the economy as a whole. These involuntary furloughs may be short or long term, and many of those affected may seek other temporary employment during that time. A furlough from prison may also be part of a work release program.
In the United States, involuntary furloughs concerning federal government employees may be of a sudden and immediate nature. Such was the case on February 2010, when a single Senate objection prevented emergency funding measures from being implemented. As a result, 2000 federal workers for the Department of Transportation were immediately furloughed as of March 1, 2010.
Board members of various school districts as well as universities implemented "furlough days" in 2009. This made students pay the same rate, if not more for their education while providing fewer educational days by forcing educators and staff members to take the day off. In states such as Georgia, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia included a clause so that mandatory furlough days are implemented but no classes are lost during the 2009-2010 academic year.
In California the State Employee Trades Council (SETC) voted to implement a mandatory two-day per month furlough policy for the staff and faculty of the CSU system . The furloughs, intended to prevent layoffs, began in August 2009, and the agreement will remain in force until June 2011. The 10% cut may correct $275 million of the CSU's $564 million dollar budget deficit.