In this time of lockdown, the question has arisen as to how to reduce employees’ hours and pay them less. I’m jjust going to touch on the terminology here – anyone who wants to know more can do a websearch nowadays!

There has been some comment in the UK press about the German system of Kurzarbeit (short-time work). From the Financial Times:

Kurzarbeit: a German export most of Europe wants to buy

Please use the sharing tools found via the share button at the top or side of articles. Copying articles to share with others is a breach of FT.comT&Cs and Copyright Policy. Email licensing@ft.com to buy additional rights. Subscribers may share up to 10 or 20 articles per month using the gift article service. More information can be found here

The tool is Kurzarbeit, or shorter work-time, a policy that has been copied by so many other countries that one economist called it one of Germany’s “most successful exports”. Under the scheme, companies hit by a downturn can send their workers home, or radically reduce their hours, and the state will replace a large part of their lost income.

The UK has now introduced a similar scheme. It allows works to be furloughed but kept on the payroll. I knew furlough only as leave for soldiers, but apparently it is used in the USA in this sense. Furlough is like garden leave, where an employee’s contract is terminated to a certain date and he or she continues to be on the payroll but may not work. It’s referred to as the coronavirus job retention scheme. A lot of law firm websites explain it, for instance Crossland Employment Solicitors.

A number of other countries use similar schemes, but I think Germany was the first. The FT thinks it works very well in a country like Germany which invests a lot in apprenticeships, so having trained their workers, they will not want to lose them. The German scheme was ramped up at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis.

In the USA, works who are furloughed are not likely to be paid 60% of their wages as in Germany, but they may retain health insurance and other benefits.

Some more vocabulary I have picked up recently from German daily coronavirus podcasts: der Impfling for the person being vaccinated, verimpfen to inject a substance.

A tweet from Scott Hanson @papascott:

The line grew to 5 people behind us, 2 of whom left when they learned there was no asparagus. 😂

Elsewhere I note that it took the virus crisis to make Germans give up cash.

4 thoughts on “Kurzarbeit/furlough

  1. Here in Texas, short-time working is known as the “Shared Work Program”:


    Similar programs are available in other states. I don’t know when Texas started offering this, but I do know that the modern German influence is unexpectedly strong here, at least in Austin/Central Texas.

    Fourloughed workers in the US are entitled to state unemployment benefits, which differ from state to state in both the amount and the length of entitlement. They are also entitled to the $600 per week federal top-up, which will actually last longer than some state unemployment benefits.

    • Thanks for the detail, Robin. I think there always has been something about German and Texas, hasn’t there?

  2. I agree with you, Margaret, about furlough being traditionally used for UK soldiers (plus airmen and -women in the RAF).

    Here is a ProZ. Com thread on the Swedish ‘equivalent’ of the term and where I brought > employee non-sacking > garden leave (cf. Freistellung in DEU) and the British Armed Forces, plus the Merchant Navy – pace Robin B. re. shore leave in the Royal Navy – as well as (OED) Christian missionaries into the ‘furlough’ equation https://eng.proz.com/kudoz/swedish-to-english/human-resources/6783299-korttidspermittering.html

    I was also surprised, just last month, to receive emails from my UK accountants in Croydon using furlough, both as a verb and as a noun, for the first time ever.

    • That’s a very recent thread, isn’t it? It is dated March 18, and it was apparently on March 26 that the term was introduced in the UK. It’s now normal usage. Interesting!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.