Negotiating your Severance Package

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Career Transition Services | Woman on phone waling out with bankers box

Negotiating your Severance Package

You have just received your pink slip. Your services are no longer required keeps replaying in your head. Your immediate reaction may be shock. In a competitive market, a job loss will arrive as devastating news. Regardless of your emotions, you must pick yourself off the ground and immediately tend to the termination documents your employer has handed you. Your severance package determines how strong of a bridge you have to navigate the choppy waters ahead. And it is crucial to take a good hard look at it. Focusing on getting the maximum possible will not only give you purpose, it is also a very constructive way to begin your healing journey into the next stages of your career.

Seek Legal Counsel

Do not let your employer’s deadline on the termination documents intimidate you into making poor decisions. You must control the agenda to ensure you don’t leave money behind. Seeking legal counsel should become your first priority. You have every right to ask for an extension to get advice and very few employers will refuse to negotiate beyond the deadline. Do not sign the bottom line until you have received this counsel.

A hour with an experienced employment lawyer should suffice to obtain an opinion. The legal fee for the lawyer’s time will be well worth your while, if only to assure yourself you have received all your entitlements.

Is the Minimum Enough?

The law stipulates the minimum your employer should pay when they end your employment without cause. However, contrary to popular belief, this is not where the counter stops. Rather, this is where it begins. Common laws also requires your employer to give you reasonable notice, or pay in lieu, to find equivalent employment. And the minimums are often woefully insufficient under certain circumstances.

Consider the example of a 55 year executive who has spent the last 20 with the same employer, in an industry that is now economically stressed. Still too young to retire, this individual might need several months to find equivalent work. He or she might require retraining or time to pivot into a consulting career or work in a new industry. This severance package should be far superior to the minimum amount set out by law.

An employment lawyer will take your age, position, length of service as well as the job market to determine what your severance package should look like. Employers and employees are often at opposite ends of the spectrum on this argument. Rely on your lawyer to guide you with these discussions. If needed, you can engage their services to negotiate a better severance package. Many lawyers offer this service by charging a percentage of the settlement they obtain for you.

Medical Benefits and Extras

Your severance package should include the value of medical benefits and bonuses if they were part of your employment contract. Discrimination, harassment, bullying or unfair treatment during your employment term, which also includes how you were treated during the termination, could qualify you for extra compensation.

Job Loss Counselling

Recipients of severance packages have a duty to mitigate the job loss. This means you have a legal obligation to actively look for work. For many individuals, the shock of a job loss soon turns to anger, denial and finally, grief. The task of job hunting, while carrying these emotional burdens, is hapless for them.

If your lawyer has not already proposed it, you should ensure your severance package includes funds for outplacement services. At Equity, our services begin with job loss counselling for those individuals who are simply paralyzed. They need this important initial intervention before they can proceed with their legal obligation to mitigate the job loss.

Career Transitions

Regardless of job loss counselling, most job hunters find the services of a career coach invaluable in their mitigation duties. A career coach is professionally trained to be a sounding board to help you develop a plan, brush up your resume, practice your interview skills and keep you motivated.

They help you explore avenues for learning new skills and they find opportunities to transfer your talents to new and emerging industries. Your coach will guide you step by step to transition into a new business or consulting role, should you choose this. And most of all, they bring solid experience to your side as you negotiate your employment contract, close the deal on the new job and get settled in.

Ensure your severance package includes funds to permit you this leg up. A young professional, just starting out may need a modest amount compared to a senior executive or someone who requires retraining and a career change.  An experienced lawyer will skillfully negotiate these intangibles as appropriate for your situation, to convert them into tangible line items in your severance package.

So don’t linger too long after a layoff to lick your wounds. A job loss can be an opportunity to begin something fresh. And it all begins with how well you do at negotiating your severance package

Susan Heim is the president of Equity Career Transition and Outplacement Services, offering personalized coaching services for individuals in their quest for the perfect job and career. Equity also provides cost-effective outplacement services for organizations, large and small, in both the private and public sector.

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