Human Resources COVID-19 FAQs

What’s the difference between a reduction in force (RIF), layoff and furlough?

All of these terms are commonly used interchangeably, but they have different implications.  A reduction in force (RIF) is a permanent reduction in headcount without the intention of replacing or rehiring for the position.

A layoff is a temporary separation from payroll because there isn’t enough work for the person to do, with the intention of rehiring once work is available again.  A person that is laid off can typically collect unemployment benefits and sometimes maintains benefit coverage while waiting to be recalled back to work.

A furlough is a temporary reduction in hours or a requirement to take unpaid time off.  A non-exempt employee can be reduced to four days a week instead of five, thus being paid for 32 hours instead of 40.  Due to FLSA, exempt employees must be paid for a week in which they do work, so employers can furlough exempt employees one week per month, for example.


How does a private sector employer count their employees to determine if they are required to provide paid leave under Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)?

Do not count: employees working outside the United States, U.S. territories or Washington D.C.

Do count: full and part-time employees, employees on leave, temporary employees jointly employed, day laborers supplied by a temp agency.


How does an employer with fewer than 50 employees file for exemption from providing paid leave under FFCRA due to a hardship on their business?

There is no application process to file for an exemption.  Exemption is determined by the employer and applies if the employer meets one of the following criteria:

  1. Leave would result in expenses and financial obligations exceeding available business revenues and cause the small business to cease operating at a minimal capacity; or
  2. Employee’s absence would entail a substantial risk to the financial health or operational capabilities of the business because of the employee’s specialized skills, knowledge of the business, or responsibilities; or
  3. Insufficient employees able, willing and qualified at time and place needed to perform labor or services provided by the employee, and these labor or services are needed for the business to operate at a minimal capacity.


For more Human Resources information related to COVID-19, please visit the following:

Employer paid leave requirements for the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) from the US Department of Labor

FAQs on the FFCRA from the US Department of Labor

Coronavirus resources from the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM)