More companies turn to furloughs to save money, jobs

Some businesses are running promotions to ease the furlough sting. Last Friday, the Ikea in West Sacramento offered a free breakfast (eggs, bacon, potatoes and coffee that sells for $1.98 normally) to furloughed California state workers. Twice a month, Squaw Valley USA ski resort in Lake Tahoe offers the state workers a lift ticket for $30 instead of the regular $79 price.

Gaining momentum

More furloughs in more industries are likely.

Nearly one in 10 employers expect to implement a shortened workweek within the next 12 months, according to a study by Watson Wyatt. Another 6% will force mandatory furloughs, and 9% say they'll have voluntary furloughs.

Fire union chief Daws expects the firefighters' furloughs to extend beyond the initial cut-off date of June 30. "It doesn't look like there is any end in sight" to Atlanta's financial woes, he says.

But company executives and workplace experts don't expect mandatory furloughs to remain a commonly used cost saver once the economy recovers.

In addition to the "tricky" legal rules that apply to furloughs, they can also raise "significant morale issues," says employment lawyer Christensen.

Pella, which is keeping the option of more mandatory furloughs open for now, would rather go with voluntary furloughs, as it has done in the past.

It's better "to give people some control over their destiny," says Peterson.

As for the mandated furloughs, "My preference is to not always have to go there. … But as an alternative, it's certainly better than mandatory layoffs," she says.

TELL US: Have you had to take an unpaid furlough? What did you do with the time?

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