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Business

This is how you know if your company’s layoff policy is “good”.




Andreypopov | Istock | Getty Images

Redundancies this year have largely been limited to the hardest-hit sectors of the economy, especially technology. But depending on your industry, you could be facing a layoff if the economy slows more drastically in 2023, and it̵[ads1]7;s not always clear what to expect from a soon-to-be-former employer when they let you go.

Recent headlines have shown just how wide-ranging corporate layoff policies can be, from the slash-and-burn approach taken by Elon Musk on Twitter to the pains some executives go to in publicly disclosed job-cutting letters detailing the various benefits. extended to departing employees.

Layoffs are a reputational issue for companies at a time when the American public ranks how companies treat their workers as the most important ESG issue, according to an annual poll conducted by Just Capital. Living wages, training and career development opportunities, worker safety and diversity factor into human capital calculations, but that doesn’t mean companies get a free pass on how to downsize. “Set-ups can be done fairly,” said Martin Whittaker, founder of Just Capital.

“My general philosophy on letting people go is that you want to treat people well because it all goes back to your brand and in today’s market employer brand is very important,” said Paul Wolfe, former head of HR at Indeed who now runs his own company . consulting firm. “People who leave are still out there talking about your brand,” he said.

But there is a big problem: many workers do not know how to evaluate a job separation agreement, in fact they cannot distinguish a fair layoff from an unfair one. Here are some recommendations from career experts for an employer-employee interaction no one wants to have, but it’s better to prepare for in advance.

Do not sign anything when you are first notified

A very important knowledge to start with: you do not need to sign a job separation offer. In fact, career coach Fiona Bryan’s No. 1 piece of advice when you get a layoff offer is not to sign any document on the spot when you’re first notified.

“It’s a really emotional time, and legally your employer has to give you a notice of how long you have to sign the papers,” said Bryan, a professional career coach at Ask A Career Expert and senior managing partner at The Bryan Group. “Take the offer away and read it. Ideally, take it to an employment lawyer, and some offer short, free consultations.”

“It varies from company to company, but typically you have 21 days to sign a layoff offer,” said Toni Frana, a career services manager at FlexJobs, a member-based job site for remote and hybrid roles.

“You can always negotiate the package,” said Andrew Challenger, senior vice president at outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. And he says employees are more likely to succeed in this environment, which, unlike a sudden, severe downturn like the Covid crash, is a situation where many companies overstaffed into a slowing economy. “This is not panic, this is not a falling knife,” he said. Employees are never going to have as much leverage in an exit negotiation as they do when they accept a job offer, but “now is a better time than during a huge crisis,” he said.

After you have had time to process the emotional, financial and mental changes that a layoff entails, you can see here whether the company’s layoff offer is good or not, and whether it is time to negotiate a better offer.

How you take severance pay matters

When it comes to severance pay, Bryan advises people to identify whether it will be paid in a lump sum or if the company will keep them on the payroll when they deposit the money into their accounts.

“If it’s paid out in a lump sum, sometimes it’s nice to get your severance pay and find a new job,” Bryan said. “But sometimes it’s beneficial for people to stay on the payroll so they can continue to list continued employment on their resume with the company.”

If you still get a check from the company, Bryan said you can still say you’re employed by the company on your resume. This is particularly important if someone has only worked for a short time in the company when they have been released, and they can list active work for a while longer.

How much money you should expect

Most companies that offer severance pay base it on employment in a company. Frana said the general rule of thumb is that companies offer one week to three weeks of your salary for every year you worked at the company.

If you have worked for the company for a year, you can get anywhere from one to three weeks’ pay. But if you’ve been with the company for 10 years, you can get anywhere from 10 weeks to 30 weeks’ pay.

“If you were valuable to the company, you might get extra money, or ask for extra money,” Bryan said. “But two years of severance pay is usually the maximum. In my history of doing this, I don’t think I’ve heard of anyone going past 24 months.”

This is how you know if your company’s layoff policy is “good”.

Consider health benefits and severance pay together

In addition to how much you’ll be paid, how quickly your health benefits expire is another part of a company’s layoff offer.

“I have found [health benefits] go through the month that the person is still on the payroll,” Bryan said. “So it’s another difference if someone stays on the payroll or if they get paid a lump sum.”

If you’re on the payroll for two months, or a year, for severance pay, your health benefits coverage will often continue for that time as well, Bryan said. But if you take a lump sum, it’s difficult for a company to continue health coverage.

“That’s just the way insurance companies work. If a person isn’t employed, a company can’t pay the insurance premium,” Bryan said. “However, if you are still on the payroll and you are being paid your regular salary, a company may pay your insurance premium as well.”

In today’s tight labor market, there are some companies that offer more. In its recent layoffs, fintech company Stripe said it is offering cash equivalent to six months of existing health care or continuation of health care.

In the United States, regardless of how or whether you are offered severance pay, the Department of Labor requires companies to offer a temporary continuation of the health benefits that people were previously offered while working for the company. This is usually at the expense of the employee and is required under COBRA, or the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act.

While each company is different, they will offer temporary coverage for about two months, Frana said. But these continued health benefits aren’t offered at the same rates you were offered as an employee and can be expensive for people who were just laid off.

Challenger said the “headline number” of total weeks of severance pay is the hardest to negotiate, but peripherals like health care are kept on the payroll longer, and the PTO may have more room for employees to ask for better terms.

Career help to negotiate an agreement

While severance and health benefits are essential, there are additional resources companies can offer in your severance package, and some you can negotiate, if they weren’t initially offered.

It’s important to help employees know about the parts of the package that don’t necessarily cost money or set big precedents, because that’s what HR usually doesn’t want to do, Bryan said.

Outplacement benefits, such as resume review, career guidance and interview training, are important resources that companies can offer in their severance packages.

These are among the resources that people need most when laid off to help them get back into the workforce, said Lisa Rangel, founder and CEO of Chameleon Resumes, a resume writing and job matching consulting firm.

“If the company doesn’t offer them directly, you can negotiate for them yourself,” Rangel said. “Or if they offer a general relocation benefit, you can also negotiate what custom services would benefit you and see if they will.”

Other resources may include connecting to the company’s alumni network and even accessing internal resources, such as attorneys to assist with legal needs. When online payments company Stripe laid off workers in November, it offered former employees access to an alumni email address, as well as career and immigration support. The latter is extremely important for foreign visa workers whose stay in the United States is contingent on having a job.

While these services aren’t typically offered by every company, Bryan said an employee can and should always ask for what they need, and it helps if it’s not too expensive. If you’re not offered what you need or think you deserve based on your tenure and performance, she added, just like a job offer, everything is negotiable.

Wolfe said a company’s job goes beyond the economic benefits that are extended. As an HR manager, he said in a layoff situation, “My job is to help you as much as possible and help you get your next gig and companies, if they care about employees, will help.”

“If you haven’t been in a layoff situation before, negotiations may not be something that automatically comes to mind,” Frana said. “You can always try to negotiate, whether there is room for negotiation or not, you won’t know unless you try.”

While being laid off is never ideal, and often not expected, Bryan said you should always go for what you need and deserve.

“Qualification packages can be good when you know they’re coming and you’ve made some plans,” Bryan said. “But re-entering the job market requires resources, and it helps when you’re well prepared so another company can scoop you up.”



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