When Congress returns from its second straight week of recess, it will have only a few days to strike a budget deal and prevent a partial government shutdown.

A temporary funding bill that applies to most of the government (the VA has full-year funding already) expires April 28.

That puts political leaders in the familiar position of choosing among:

– extending funding at its current levels, either for the remainder of the fiscal year that ends September 30 or for a shorter period as a stopgap;

– enacting a full-year budget bill that contains new funding and policy decisions;

– or allowing a partial shutdown like the one that occurred in October 2013.

Fortunately, shutdown threats more often prove to be bark than bite.

The most recent actual shutdown, in 2013, was the first since late 1995-early 1996, and lasted more than two weeks. Others dating to the early ‘90s and back into the ‘80s had lasted only a few days—many of them falling over a weekend and thus having little practical impact beyond the distraction and disruption they caused in the workplace.

But however unlikely a shutdown might be, and however briefly an actual one might last, just the prospect brings anxiety to employees worried about their pay, benefits and rights. Following is an overview of those issues.

FEDweek free downloadShutdowns & Furloughs: What you need to know