Furlough days are mandatory leaves of absence ordered by employers who are attempting to cut costs without firing employees. When such a day is ordered, employees take the day off without pay. The practice of ordering employees to take leaves of absence is controversial in some regions, and it can be frustrating for people who rely on regular office hours to access goods and services.
In a classic example, a local or regional government struggling with budget restrictions might mandate that government offices will be closed a set number of days a month to make up for the budget shortfall. For example, offices might be closed on Fridays, or every other Monday, or some variant thereof. These days off may be scheduled into the foreseeable future, or only for a limited time, depending on the nature of the budget shortfall.
One obvious problem with furlough days is that many employees cannot afford the loss of income created by mandatory days off. While losing income altogether as a result of job loss would be worse, employees forced to take unpaid days off may feel resentful, and they may be forced to look for alternate or additional employment to make up the difference. Mandatory time off can also potentially cut into benefits, which will impact employees in the long term.
For people who plan to do business with a company or agency that has instituted furlough days, these periodic closures can be very frustrating. Government offices, for example, usually have familiar and set hours, and it can be upsetting to arrive at an office and realize it is closed. Getting business done during the workweek may also be difficult, as the office may be extremely busy as employees make up for the work which wasn't done on on their days off.
Sometimes, employees are asked to consider taking furloughs voluntarily before such days are mandated. This is designed to encourage those who feel more comfortable with a reduction in income to take time off, allowing others who rely on their whole paychecks to keep working. In other cases, part of the furlough plan may involve closing the office for the day, thereby saving on energy costs and other associated expenses, in which case, employees who cannot afford a loss of income may be allowed to work irregular hours, coming in early or staying late to make up the difference.