Many agencies are considering involuntary furloughs -- or asking employes to volunteer to take leave without pay -- early next year to trim payroll costs and help prevent or minimize layoffs. Office of Personnel Management brass who are tracking the RIF-furlough situation in government say that many departments and agencies are trying to figure out if the use of mandatory furloughs or voluntary leave without pay (as planned in the Labor Department) will get them out of their financial binds.

Before it adjourned, Congress approved a stopgap budget resolution cutting many agencies' funds 16 percent for this fiscal year. Some officials believe that by furloughing workers for up to 10 days -- in most cases one day per two-week pay period -- they can save enough money to avoid major RIFs. Others -- Labor and Agriculture among them-- are polling workers to see if enough people are willing to go on LWOP for short periods of time to help save the jobs of coworkers.

Except in emergency situations, agencies planning to furlough workers must give them 30 days' notice. A number of agencies are holding off on furlough announcements, hoping for some kind of financial reprieve from the Office of Management and Budget or trying not to drop the bad news on employes just before Christmas. You will be hearing a lot more about furloughs in the weeks ahead.