Getting laid off is one of the most stressful experiences we can go through in life, but even though you are likely feeling upset, angry, and overwhelmed, the most important thing now is to focus on negotiating the best terms you can for your dismissal.

If your company offers severance pay for staff that has been laid off then you need to be aware of all the options available to you, the right questions to ask, and how to best negotiate your severance package to make sure you are getting the compensation and help you deserve. Here are a few tips to set you off on the right foot.

What is Severance Pay?

Severance pay, otherwise known as a severance package, is a form of compensation or other benefits that an employer offers to employees that leave the company under particular circumstances.

Usually, severance pay is reserved for employees that are laid off by the company, and while it is not a legal requirement for employees to receive compensation if their contract is cut short, several companies have standard policies for offering it.

Typically, severance packages include a lump sum or ongoing payment, along with a severance agreement, whereby the affected employee signs a contract to not hold the company liable.

How to Negotiate a Severance Package

Check Your Contract Or Employee Handbook

As previously stated, severance pay is not typically a legal requirement, but a lot of companies will have policies in place to offer it.

Make sure to read through your contract of employee handbook carefully to ensure your employer is following its policy. Any discrepancies should be pointed out during the negotiations.

Consult a Lawyer

It is common practice for companies to pay out a severance package only after the employee has signed an agreement to not hold the company liable. These release forms can be daunting and often confusing to work through alone, so using a severance pay lawyer is a good option to mitigate any concerns you may have.

Determine What you Want Most

A severance package is not solely about the money, and it is important to figure out what you want and need from the agreement to best bounce back after your employment ends.

For example, if you need time to find a job then you can request the severance be paid out in installments over a period, rather than as a lump sum. Or you may ask for assistance in your job search in the form of career coaching. Consider your goals and your employer’s needs, see where the two align and if compromises can be made.  

Some of the things you can negotiate in your severance package include:

  • The amount of money
  • How it is paid
  • Retirement plan contributions
  • Stock options
  • References
  • Outplacement services, such as career coaching

Speak to the Right Person

Once you have gone through your severance package by yourself, the next step is to do so with your employer. Ask to arrange a one-on-one meeting where you can go through the package piece by piece and negotiate, as necessary.

In this respect, you should make sure to speak directly with someone who has both the authority and willingness to help you out. Your managers, mentors, and anyone that has been on your side during your time as an employee. A sympathetic ear will go a long way in getting you the compensation you deserve. 

Be Reasonable

Although some companies may offer severance pay to cover their own backs, for the most part, a severance package is a gesture of goodwill. 

Therefore, although it is important to fight for fair compensation, it is equally important that you remain reasonable in your requests.

Consider the amount of work you have put in over the years and the accomplishments you have made during your time with the company, and the benefits you have gotten back. Decide how much money you will really need while searching for another job and do not ask for the moon, as you might just be left disappointed.

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