“Furlough” is quite the buzzword these days. As soon as COVID-19’s effects on business and employment became clear, agile professionals from Ghana to Kenya, Nigeria to South Africa, with an interest in employment, read up on the furlough and adapted it to local conditions and advised client-employers. This has been nothing short of impressive. Furloughing is essentially an Americanism. For many legal systems like England and countries with similar legal systems (like most of the countries mentioned above), it has been a post-COVID-19 phenomenon. What does it really mean? Basically, it is when the employer asks the worker to go on a period of unpaid leave because circumstances beyond the employer’s control prevents the employer from paying the worker. The situation is usually such that if the workers object, the only realistic alternative is to terminate their employment. The pervasive reach of COVID-19 (across the world and into corporate and individual pockets) means the temptation or need to furlough workers has touched many an employment in far-flung places, including –
Africa where many employment lawyers report that clients are very interested in what menu of options they have in changing their financial relationship with workers until the effects of the pandemic are reversed. The common questions have been about reduced pay, compulsory annual leave, indefinite leave without pay (that is the furlough, really), redundancy and termination (by frustration).