Many companies are considering layoffs due to economic uncertainty. Plus, staffing reductions can occur even when an organization is financially secure. As a result, many professionals want to make sure that they’ll receive severance if their employment ends unexpectedly. If you’re among them, here are seven tips to ensure you receive severance pay when let go if it’s owed.
1. Understand the Law
Generally, there aren’t any federal or state laws that make severance a requirement across the board. As a result, even if you’re let go through no fault of your own, severance isn’t inherently guaranteed based on legislation in the vast majority of cases.
Typically, if there are exceptions, they relate to layoffs that didn’t follow government-mandated procedures. For example, state law may require that employers provide a specific amount of notice to employees before a layoff occurs, depending on the size of the layoff. If the employer fails to do so, they might be required to continue giving employees their pay and benefits for a specific period, even if the worker isn’t performing any job-related duties during that period. While that does differ a bit from traditional severance, it still results in income that’s provided after employment formally ends.
Since situations like the one outlined above can occur, it’s wise to review any relevant laws relating to layoff requirements and potential resulting severance or compensation. That way, you know what you have a right to if you’re let go in a way that violates legal requirements in your area.
2. Review Your Employment Agreements
While companies aren’t necessarily required to offer severance, many of them do have severance package details outlined in various employment agreements. This can include arrangements in individual employment contracts with specific employees or broader policies that apply to the entire organization.
Spend time reviewing any employment agreements that apply to you, and look specifically for information about severance or compensation relating to layoffs. That ensures you’re well-informed if a covered situation unfolds.
3. Check Any Union Contracts
Even if your company doesn’t discuss severance in its employment agreements, union contracts may address the topic. If you’re in a union position, review the contract to see if there are details about severance pay or similar compensation. Again, this lets you know what the company has agreed to do in specific situations and its information you can leverage if a covered event occurs.
4. Make Sure Your Eligible
Typically, there are eligibility requirements for severance packages. For example, some companies only offer severance if you’re laid off through no fault of your own, while others may expand the benefit to other types of job loss. At times, severance may be available to nearly any employee, while others limit it to workers who are full-time or work a minimum number of hours each week.
If you want to ensure you receive severance, you need to know the eligibility requirements. That helps you make decisions on the job that let you qualify for the benefit, such as maintaining a proper performance to avoid termination for cause, working the required number of hours, and more.
5. Negotiate for Severance
Severance is traditionally an employee benefit, and like many benefits, it’s often negotiable. If you’re considering a new job and are concerned about a layoff in the future, you can see if the company is willing to put this type of compensation into your employment contract. Then, if a qualifying event occurs, you have a straightforward path for securing severance pay.
However, you can also negotiate severance even if a layoff or termination is looming. Often, this is possible if the company is asking you to sign an agreement stating you won’t take legal action against it or that would bar you from discussing any aspect of your experience that relates to the end of your employment. By not signing immediately, you can request compensation for doing as they ask. Then, once that agreement is formally outlined in writing and signed by the proper company leaders, you can receive that compensation by agreeing to the company’s terms.
6. Prepare to Receive the Severance
In some cases, severance isn’t paid the same way you receive your pay. For example, severance may come as a check instead of a direct deposit, or vice versa. As a result, you need to make sure everything is in place for the process to unfold smoothly. That could include ensuring the company has the correct address or bank account information to provide the money, allowing you to avoid unnecessary hiccups.
7. Don’t Quit
Typically, quitting a job makes an employee ineligible for severance. If a company is talking about layoffs, but you haven’t been let go yet, don’t jump ship assuming that you’ll get your severance. Quitting or leaving before the official termination date could make you ineligible, and it may cost you unemployment, too.
Generally, the only time leaving early makes sense is if you receive a job offer and need to start in that role before you’re laid off. While you may not get severance, you are ensuring your income continues, so that could make the sacrifice worthwhile.
Do you have any other tips that can help someone ensure they receive their severance pay if they’re let go? Did you manage to secure severance pay after losing a job and want to tell others about your experience? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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Tamila McDonald is a U.S. Army veteran with 20 years of service, including five years as a military financial advisor. After retiring from the Army, she spent eight years as an AFCPE-certified personal financial advisor for wounded warriors and their families. Now she writes about personal finance and benefits programs for numerous financial websites.