How to Get the Best Severance Package

How to Get the Best Severance Package

If we leave a job we want to do so on our own terms. However, many companies are resorting to layoffs and forced resignations to restructure or shore up their budgets. If you believe that you could be a casualty of this reality, don despair. You can still leave on your terms, but jump into action now and start planning your exit strategy.

When people are laid off (or forced to quit) companies large and small will often provide employees with a severance package. Packages can vary by company and even by person. Some companies’ packages are better than others. If a layoff or forced resignation may be in your future you want to have the best severance package possible. Start by understanding what a severance package is, read your employee handbook and get everything in writing.

A severance package is all of the benefits that an employer provides to an employee who is leaving their company. The package can include many components including regular pay, vacation, retirement, health benefits and more. Severance packages are most often offered to employees who are laid off. They can also be offered to employees who quit (voluntarily or not) or are fired, but that is less common.

Find Your Employee Handbook and Read It

Whether you consulted it or not while gainfully employed at your company, your employee handbook has been an important source of information during your time there. It spelled out what your benefits were as well as many expectations of behavior and work guidelines. Now, it may also provide information regarding exiting the company and severance packages so it a good idea to at least check.

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If you take nothing but that idea away from this article, you will still have picked up something of value. In fact it so important it needs stating again. Get everything, EVERYTHING in writing. Leave nothing to chance because it could come back to haunt you. A signed agreement by both parties is the ONLY way to guarantee what you will receive in your severance package and will protect your interests. It doesn matter what your employer tells you they will give you. The proof is in the pudding and no matter how great a relationship you had with your employer, the only truth is in your signed contract.

Unfortunately too many people ignore this directive to their own detriment. They trust their employer or they don want to come across as demanding or mean because they think it will hurt their chances to be rehired or receive a good recommendation, or more painful, because they can handle confrontation. There are literally tons of sad tales from people who did not get anything in writing and it came back to haunt them. Employers didn pay the agreed severance,
How to Get the Best Severance Package
or denied unemployment, or would not provide recommendations. Sometimes it isn malfeasance on the employer part but a misunderstanding between the two of you. You thought you agreed to one thing and the employer thought something else. Either way you can avoid this from happening by getting your severance package agreement in writing. Avoiding it could literally cost you money and benefits, resources you will definitely need after the layoff or forced departure occurs. It just business. Think about it. Your employer is taking care or his/hers. You need to take care of yours. The main takeaway is this. Do not believe an employer who tells you that you will receive numerous benefits yet offers nothing in writing. That a recipe for disaster. Now that we clear on this point, what terms do you want to negotiate and have spelled out in your severance package agreement? Below are ten important items to consider:Money and benefits are key components. Think about your own situation as there may be items in addition to those listed below that you want to negotiate. The following are common.

You will of course want to be paid through your last day of work.

You will also want to be paid for any earned unused vacation and personal days.

If your company pays out for sick days you want that too. 401k), stock options, etc. also, if you have worked at a company long enough to retire, you may want to consider it. The positives are that you can still negotiate, you lock in your benefits and it doesn preclude you from searching for other employment.

2. Employment Assistance

Ask your employer for career placement assistance such as resume writing or coaching. Sometimes there are on site services and sometimes they may reimburse you for services you obtain on your own.

3. Leave in Good Standing

You have been an excellent employee and have always received glowing performance reviews. Awesome. Make sure those evaluations follow you when you depart from your current job. Have your employer note that in your severance agreement. If you are employed at a place where regular performance evaluations are not conducted it is even more imperative that you get this in writing so that you can prove that you were a positive contributor.

4. Get a Copy of your Personnel File

It important that you know if there is anything of note, positive or negative in your file. If it is positive, great. If there are negative marks in your file, are they deserved? Can you use the information to improve performance at your next job? For instance, say there is a notation that you were often late. If true, that constructive feedback you can use to your benefit. If there is something that you feel is wrong or grossly unfair, especially if you did not know about it, ask to have it removed. You should procure your list of professional references from your current employer,
How to Get the Best Severance Package
either your direct supervisor or other employees who can speak positively about your work. Ask that a letter be placed in your personnel file as well as a copy included in your severance package agreement. Ask that your agreement state that the positive letter of recommendation be used if contacted by future employers.