Did you Just Get Laid Off or Are You at Risk of Losing your Job?
Getting laid off is very stressful. However, because of the current economy, there are thousands of people across the country losing their jobs. In fact, chances are most of us know someone who has been recently been laid off. If you think your employer may be preparing to lay people off, it is important that you prepare ahead of time. If you just lost your job, there are other important steps that you need to take immediately.
You Just Got Laid Off--Questions You Should Ask Your Employer Before You End Your Employment
- Will you be getting a severance package? Severance packages look differently across organizations. They can include pay at your current salary for a limited period of time or extended health insurance benefits. It is also important to note that severance packages can affect the amount of unemployment benefits you receive. To learn more about severance packages click here. Unfortunately, employers aren’t obligated to give their employees a severance package.
- Will you be paid for unused leave including vacation, annual leave etc.? There is generally a policy related to unused leave in your employee handbook. Make sure you review your company’s policy. You should also confirm how much unused leave you have accumulated.
- When will your health benefits end? If you have a health insurance plan through your employer, you want to confirm when your benefits will end. Some employers will address this in the severance package. Typically, if your employment is terminated after the first day of the month you are eligible to receive health insurance benefits until the end of the month.
- When can you expect to receive information about COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) health benefits? COBRA provides continuation of group health coverage that otherwise might be terminated. Employers or health plan administrators are supposed to provide you with a specific notice regarding your rights to COBRA continuation benefits. See If You Are Unemployed, You Might Qualify For Other Assistance Too section for more information on COBRA.
- Can they prepare a letter stating the reason for your termination? For your own personal records, request a letter stating that you have been laid off.
- Can they prepare a recommendation letter? It is always helpful to have a letter of recommendation for your files. This letter should address your duties and job performance. You also want to make sure you have the contact information (e.g., addresses, emails, phone numbers, job titles) of colleagues and supervisors that you would consider using as a reference.
Steps to Take if You Think You Might Get Laid Off
Many see the writing on the wall before they actually get laid off. For example, has your organization asked employees to take furloughs, decreased their hours, imposed hiring freezes or cut travel budgets? These are just some of the signs that an organization may be headed towards layoffs. If you think your position might be eliminated you don’t have to get caught off guard. There are several steps you can take to be proactive.
- Set aside an emergency fund. It is a general rule that everyone should have three to six months aside to cover basic life expenses in case of emergency. If you don’t have money set aside - now is the time to start saving. You don’t want to lose your job and not have a safety net. Unfortunately, unemployment benefits are not nearly enough to cover all of your basic needs.
- Live within in your means. This is not the time to splurge! Don’t spend on anything that you don’t need. This is not the time to buy a new plasma or car. Make sure you prioritize and cut corners where you can.
- Be careful with those credit cards. You want to make sure you don’t charge anything on your credit cards. Remember, this will be one extra payment that you will have to deal with if you lose your job. Do your best to put your credit cards away and only use them if absolutely necessary! If you already have debt on your credit cards, check the interest rates and see if you there are any balance transfer offers (e.g., 0% for six months, 2.99% for one year, etc.) on other credit cards that you can take advantage of. Typically, creditors charge a small transaction fee for balance transfers. Make sure you read the fine print and pay on time. One missed payment can reverse your account to an increased interest rate.
- Talk to your loved ones. If you think there is a chance you might lose your job, it is important to discuss your financial goals and priorities with your loved ones. You want to make sure you are on the same page particularly if the loss of your job is going to impact others around you.
- Update your resume. Needless to say that the idea of getting laid off can be emotionally stressful however, it is also an opportunity to reevaluate your professional interests and career path. Take the time to revise and update your resume. The sooner this is completed the sooner you can begin to apply for new positions. Browse the internet for sample resumes.
- Be on the lookout for opportunities. Networking is going to be very important as you prepare to embark on a job search. Touch base with those close to you to see if they know of any opportunities or connections that you should explore. A completed resume will be essential in networking with others. You can also consider developing your professional network of trusted contacts online.
- Check your employee handbook. Familiarize yourself with your organization’s personnel policies. The policies should address issues such unused leave, the layoff or termination process. You probably received a copy of their handbook at the beginning of your employment. It is good to locate this document well in advance of a layoff. Remember, some people are asked to leave the office immediately and do not have time to gather much of their belongings before leaving the office.
- Schedule any pending medical appointments. Your health is probably one of the last things on your mind if you are preparing to lose your job. However, it is important that you take a minute to address any health matters before your insurance runs out. Think about it – did you cancel your last dental appointment or not schedule your yearly physical? While you might be eligible for COBRA, it is wise to use your current insurance while you still can. So plan ahead.
- Open a line of credit. If you are a homeowner, consider opening a home-equity line of credit (HELOC)and keeping it open. It is important that you use line of credit for emergencies only. The funds are there if you absolutely need them. It might be challenging to get approved for a line of credit in the current economic environment, but it’s still worth trying. It is important to note, that any money you use will have to be paid back -- failure to repay a home equity line of credit could cause you to lose your home. Make sure you read the fine print before you proceed. A home-equity line of credit is not in lieu of an emergency fund – it is a backup plan.
How to File for Unemployment Benefits
All of us probably know someone who has been laid off from their job. So, if you just lost your job know that you are not alone. If you have been laid off from your job – you are likely eligible for unemployment benefits also referred to as unemployment insurance. Unemployment is paid for by employers and your tax dollars when you are working. You can only claim for unemployment if you are laid off (i.e., company downsized) and meet the requirements of state law. Unemployment benefits are time limited and vary from state to state. If you leave your job on your own free will, you will not be eligible for any unemployment benefits. Click here
for the Department of Labor’s overview of unemployment benefits and process.
As soon as you have been notified of your lay off, you need to contact your state’s unemployment insurance agency
to find out your state’s specific process. There are many ways that you can file for unemployment – online, in person or by phone. You will need to have patience during this process. You will likely have to gather lots of information, make numerous calls and verify required information. It is recommended that you organize all of your information. You may need to provide your past employer’s contact information along with your salary history. In order to avoid calling back, keep this information on hand.
Don't Risk Losing Your Unemployment Benefits
Unemployment benefits can help while you look for another job but remember benefits are time limited. It is important to follow the unemployment process carefully to avoid any disruptions with your weekly benefits. Click here
to learn about what could reduce or end your benefits.
LEARN MORE ABOUT FILING FOR BENEFITS, COBRA INSURANCE COVERAGE, AND OTHER RESOURCES RELATED TO EMPLOYMENT HERE.
Foster Care Alumni of America would like to thank the Freddie Mac Foundation for their generous support in making these resources available. To learn more about Freddie Mac, visit the Freddie Mac Foundation website.