Whether you’re a federal employee or defense contractor, there’s little doubt the past two weeks have been filled with speculation about a potential government shutdown, and whether or not you’ll be heading into work tomorrow (Tuesday, Oct. 1). We’ve been at this point before, but government shutdown has mostly been hype and speculation, a drama-filled build up to a 9th inning compromise.
By the looks of things today, however, government shutdown could definitely be a reality. For government personnel, this means no work (unless you’re essential personnel), and no paycheck. Government workers of the past may have expected to be reimbursed for unpaid and unplanned days off – today’s workers may not be so lucky. It would take congressional action to give back-pay to affected workers, and given today’s budget climate, that may not be likely. Federal workers also don’t have the option to take leave days during a shutdown. They’re facing both no work, and no pay.
What’s murky for government employees is even murkier for government contractors. Most defense industry companies have set up contingency plans for what to do in the event of a shutdown. It typically involves a combination of some essential contractors reporting to government offices, some working on alternate projects at a company headquarters and some simply staying at home. Paychecks will not be coming to contracting companies, and it’s at the discretion of the company how they handle paying workers. Some contractors may be forced into furlough, like their civilian counterparts. Some may take paid leave, and some may continue to receive a paycheck like normal (whether they’re working in an office or not).
Company size doesn’t seem to be a factor in whether or not defense contractors will get paid. Representatives we’ve spoken with at both major defense companies as well as small businesses seem to have a similar response when it comes to paying workers. The impact mostly boils down to how long a shutdown lasts. A government shutdown of a few days to a week will likely not have a significant impact on defense contract workers. A shutdown that stretches over a week, weeks could result in both furloughs, and layoffs.