Is it morally acceptable for a fourloughed employee to keep his/her wages for the days they were not at work? Or, is this a sin?
Absolutely. Pay and benefits are in response to an overall body of work and time with a company. The employee, when working, helped the employer make money or provide some service and in return the employer showed its appreciation for that work through pay and benefits. Paid furlough is usually a type of “benefit” because the employer knows it has inconvenienced the employee through the furlough. It is right and just to do something to compensate a willing employee who was refused work, otherwise his life and family suffer:
- …Now, were we to consider labor merely in so far as it is personal, doubtless it would be within the workman’s right to accept any rate of wages whatsoever; for in the same way as he is free to work or not, so is he free to accept a small wage or even none at all. But our conclusion must be very different if, together with the personal element in a man’s work, we consider the fact that work is also necessary for him to live: these two aspects of his work are separable in thought, but not in reality. The preservation of life is the bounden duty of one and all, and to be wanting therein is a crime. It necessarily follows that each one has a natural right to procure what is required in order to live, and the poor can procure that in no other way than by what they can earn through their work.
- Let the working man and the employer make free agreements, and in particular let them agree freely as to the wages; nevertheless, there underlies a dictate of natural justice more imperious and ancient than any bargain between man and man, namely, that wages ought not to be insufficient to support a frugal and well-behaved wage-earner. If through necessity or fear of a worse evil the workman accept harder conditions because an employer or contractor will afford him no better, he is made the victim of force and injustice…