What should I expect from my employer if I am fired? – Forbes Advisor

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Over the past few years, a booming economy and low interest rate environment have allowed large companies to hire in droves. But the party is over: companies are laying off tens of thousands of workers in anticipation of strong economic winds.

And even with a slowdown in inflationmany economists fear that a recession is inevitable.

These fears can make you think about what will happen if your company suffers a series of layoffs.

What to ask your employer after a layoff

Layoffs can throw people into a loop. Finding out you’re fired is an emotional and frustrating experience, but don’t miss an opportunity to ask your employer important questions that can help you make informed decisions later.

Find out what happens next with questions like:

  • Will I be compensated for unused leave or vacation days?
  • When will my last day of health coverage be?
  • What happens to my 401(k) or other company-sponsored savings account?
  • Will I receive severance pay?
  • Can you give me a letter of recommendation?
  • Can I get a copy of my job performance records?
  • Are there work placement programs?

If you don’t feel supported after a layoff, you can talk to the Human Resources department about extending benefits or employment.

While post-termination benefits aren’t usually negotiable, it can’t hurt to try to get help from your employer, says Amy Zimmerman, human resources manager at Relay Payments.

“Typically, companies offer everyone involved a package that’s non-negotiable, but that doesn’t mean your extenuating circumstances won’t yield a different outcome,” Zimmerman says. “If you’re fired individually, you might have more clout.”

Keep Calm and Refocus

It’s easy for panic to set in if layoffs catch you off guard. You will go through the full range of emotions, from fear and anger to sadness and frustration. Instead of focusing on what you can’t change, take a deep breath and give yourself a moment to pull yourself together.

A recent Harvard Business Review article by Certified Career Coach and Strategist Marlo Lyons advises anyone newly laid off to refrain from immediately sending your CV.

Instead, give yourself a chance to figure out what you really want. You might feel defeated, so this is a great opportunity to list your skills and accomplishments to rebuild your confidence and assess what you want from your next career opportunity.

Your employer may ask you to sign a termination letter, perhaps in exchange for some sort of severance pay if you are a salaried employee, but before signing it is wise to consult an independent lawyer.

“Many companies I know of offer one week off for every year you’ve been employed, but may also have a minimum threshold of one to two weeks off even if you haven’t been employed for very long,” says Amy Spurling, founder and CEO of Compt, a benefits software company.

While this severance package can help keep you financially afloat while you’re between jobs, it’s important to know that a severance package usually comes with strings attached. Spurling says employers typically offer severance pay in exchange for waiving any legal claims against the company.

“The law requires that an employee be compensated for signing such an agreement, so it is in the employee’s best interest to read this agreement carefully,” Spurling says.

What happens to your benefits if you lose your job

Spurling explains that the United States is largely an at-will employment country, which means “companies can terminate employees as they see fit and are not required to pay benefits.”

But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll leave empty-handed. And that doesn’t mean companies can break labor laws. Although layoffs can be both financially and emotionally devastating, you probably won’t be without help if your job ends.

Although your employer may not be responsible for post-termination compensation, there are certain benefits you may be legally entitled to at the federal and state level, such as supplemental health insurance and unemployment benefits. Other benefits, such as severance pay, are not required under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Since labor laws vary from state to state, check with your organization’s human resources department to find out what benefits you are entitled to. What you end up getting after leaving your job depends not only on labor laws, but also on the agreements or contracts you had in place with your organization.

What to do with health insurance

Health insurance is arguably one of the most important benefits many workers enjoy. After a layoff or, in some cases, termination, eligible workers can either continue their employer-sponsored insurance through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) or purchase insurance in the government-sponsored health insurance.

You must be enrolled in health care coverage to have a COBRA option. Some plans are not covered by COBRA, so check with your HR representative. COBRA is temporary and can be an expensive solution to health insurance coverage because beneficiaries are required to pay the full amount of coverage plus up to a 2% administrative fee.

COBRA is not your only option. If you are made redundant or lose your job, you can enroll in a federal market plan within 60 days of the last day of your employer health insurance plan.

Unemployment compensation can help you while you look for another job

Unemployment checks can make all the difference in bridging the gap between jobs. According to the Department of Labor (DOL), you are entitled to unemployment benefits if you are fired from your job through no fault of your own.

File a claim with your state unemployment office to start receiving benefits as soon as possible. If you receive severance pay, you may have to wait until the end of the severance period to apply for benefits. Also, you may need to regularly prove your eligibility to continue receiving unemployment benefits.

Unemployment eligibility requirements and benefit amounts vary by state. Most states require employees to meet a base period of time worked,” according to the DOL. So, if you only worked for your last employer for a short time, you cannot claim unemployment.

Your unemployment benefit is also often determined by how much you have earned, with higher earners usually entitled to higher payments.

Unemployment benefits are generally paid for up to 26 weeks, although some states offer benefits for different durations. According to the latest report from the Department of Labor, the average weekly unemployment benefit in the United States is $404, but this amount can vary significantly from state to state.