Surviving a Lay-Off… Essential Questions to Ask Your Employer When Facing a Lay-Off

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Job loss of any kind can be hard. But it’s especially hard when that loss is unexpected and due to no fault of your own. Aside from the loss of income, which is no small thing, many people also struggle with feeling displaced and devalued. Combine that with feelings of loneliness and grief for the relationships and daily routines that used to provide a sense of comfort and familiarity, and you’ve got a ready-made recipe for panic, anxiety, and depression.

However, it doesn’t have to be that way. A job loss, though difficult, is not the end of the world, and can actually serve as a launchpad to the next best thing for you and your career. The key is to approach it with mindfulness, patience, self-compassion, and a bit of strategy.

In this two-part series, we offer some tools and advice to weathering the storm of a lay-off. In Part One, we take a look at some of the things you want to ask for and about from your employer when and if you’re laid off….

MacBook Pro, white ceramic mug,and black smartphone on table
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You sit silently in the room with your boss and the HR rep. They’ve just explained that this is a business decision, nothing more, but that doesn’t do anything to stop the shock from flooding your mind and body. Nor does it do anything for the bits of anxiety that threaten to overtake you once the shock subsides. As you sit there trying to keep it together, it might be a tall task to take in any information that they’re giving, let alone ask any questions. But there is important information that you need to know and questions that you should ask. If not during the meeting itself, then afterwards during a call or email once you’ve had a chance to process the lay-off and the myriad of feelings/worries/concerns that you’re having.  

Will I receive a severance? And if so, what are the details of that package?

One of the first things you’ll want to ask about is details surrounding around any type of severance package that they’re offering. While your company may not be required to offer severance pay, many do. There are also certain situations where severance pay is legally mandated. When offered, severance packages are usually based on length of employment with the company and may also include continuation of benefits such as health care coverage for a period of time. For starters, you’ll want to know the severance amount, how the severance will be paid (a lump sum vs several payments), and when the severance payments will begin. Depending on the circumstances of the lay-off, it may also be worthwhile to negotiate the terms of your package.

Will my severance impact my ability to file for unemployment?

If your company offers severance pay, you’ll want to find out how any severance you receive will impact your ability to file for unemployment. For example, your company may require you to complete all severance payments before applying for unemployment benefits.

Are outplacement services available?

It’s also important to ask about the availability of outplacement services. Many companies provide job-search assistance to employees who are laid off. You’ll want to ask what services are available, the ins and outs of accessing those services, and how long the services will be available to you.

What happens to my health insurance?

If you’re one of the 175 million US workers who receives health coverage through your employer, you’ll definitely want to ask how your health insurance will be impacted. Questions such as, “When does my health care coverage with you end? How do I apply for COBRA coverage, and how soon do I need to apply for it?” are questions that your boss and/or HR department should have readily-available information on.

The above list is by no means exhausting, but it does serve as a great starting point. As a friendly reminder, before you sign anything, don’t be too shy or afraid to have an attorney review any and all paperwork. While lay-offs tend to be a part of the business cycle, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have the right to advocate for yourself.

MacBook Pro
Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash

We know how hard it can be to deal with a lay-off, so here are a few handy-dandy links to help you get your bearings when trying to figure out what to ask for from your employer and how to ask it when facing a lay-off.

Questions to Ask If You Are Laid off or Fired – Suzanne Lucas for The Balance

What to Expect in a Severance Package – Alison Doyle for The Balance

Seven Considerations When You Negotiate a Severance – James Anderson for Investopedia

Related Posts…

Surviving a Lay-off – Tackling Your Finances