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Workday checklist for U.S. furlough during COVID-19


In this article, Alight provides you with a checklist to help ensure your Workday payroll, benefits, time tracking and absence configuration is set up correctly as you transition your furloughed workforce. Additionally, we share guidance for the future to help you smoothly transition your people back into their regular work shifts.

As the outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States continues to keep residents at home and financially wary, organizations are feeling the impact of a temporary halt in both operations and consumer spending. As a result, some organizations have placed workers on furlough, or temporary leave, with the intent of re-integrating workers back into their jobs after it is safe to return to their workplace.For many employers, this shift in workforce is uncharted territory.

The 2020 Care Act

On Friday, March 27, the President of the United States signed H.R. 748, The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act into law. This act provides important provisions to alleviate the impact of COVID-19 for U.S. employers and workers and includes provisions around employer payroll and leave related provisions. You can find more information on this legislation by viewing our Understanding the impact of the CARES Act article.

Recommendations for time tracking and absence for U.S.-based employees


Ensure your company-mandated policies and procedures are reflected in any changes you make to your time tracking configuration, as you may have different rules in place during furlough that require adjustments.

Organizations with unions should double-check on any union-specific changes to configuration, as unions generally have formalized rules for furloughs.

Scheduled weekly hours and eligibility

Make sure to first evaluate the scheduled weekly hours field for workers to assess the impact a change in these hours may have on time calculations and time validations.

Assess any changes in work schedule that could have an impact on shift premium time calculations if they reference the schedule.

Consider if existing PTO or leave eligibility is based on a work schedule assignment and if a change in a worker’s scheduled hours could result in loss of eligibility.

Amending approval processes

If managers are being furloughed as well, you can set up a Mass Submit or Mass Approve, or route the time submission approval process to another security group.

Leave and PTO

Consider creating a leave plan code for furloughed employees, as leave gives the option to continue or stop pay and benefits and the option to inactivate the employee in Workday.

We recommend that a new time off plan code be created to track PTO taken directly related to COVID-19. Having a separate plan code allows for better reporting capabilities.

The best way to track PTO balances are through a custom report, which can be configured to send out alerts if balances are negative.

Recommendations for Benefits Administration for U.S.-based employees

Keeping coverage

Think through how you will handle deductions during furlough— direct bill or payroll arrears.

If doing direct billing, then you may not want to track arrears for employees on furlough; you don’t want arrears to come out of pay when employees return to work if they already paid through direct bill.

Generally, for employees to continue to receive active benefits, they must be active employees or on leave.

Ending coverage

Your organization will need to make the decision to complete this action through terminating employees or through a leave process.

Consider what your unemployment compensation management vendor will recognize as a furloughed employee.

We recommended putting furloughed workers on a furlough specific leave plan for easier re-integration once they are back to work.

Consider which coverages have a continuation feature available (like COBRA) and what may be required, or what is best practice, for your organization and employees to ensure they are accessible.

Recommendations for Payroll for U.S.-based employees

If your organization opts to use a separate furlough leave of absence plan code for your furloughed workers, first make sure that the plan is setup with payroll effect.

Review deduction priorities in the event your employees are able to continue benefits using deductions/arrears rather than direct billing.

If you have a third-party benefits system (not Workday Benefits) and you are opting to continue benefits for your employees, you also need to consider the impacts of the leave on your benefits vendor.

If you qualify for the Care Act’s Employee Retention Credit (ERC), make sure that you are keeping track of “non-working” eligible pay using new distinct earnings codes. Workday will provide tax filing categories which will aid in tracking and reporting to tax vendors.

Consider not changing local taxation due to COVID-related work from home location changes in the interim given that many states and locals will be lenient with regards to taxation. Check to see if your state or city have already released guidance to this effect.

Using Workday to effectively communicate furlough information

Ensure that work and personal email addresses have been recently updated, as well as emergency contact information.

You can create custom reports to pull in your workforce data and use in mass email letter distribution.

Hiring your workers back

After 30 days of furlough, returning employees will need to be manually returned from leave.

Use reports to monitor and confirm who is eligible to be returned from leave or to see if workers need to have their initial leave extended. 

We recommend setting up the “Return from leave” event to allow for changes in elections if benefits were initially terminated.


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