If you have received notice that you will be losing your job, but have not yet signed (or not yet received) a severance agreement, please click here to schedule a free call to discuss how you might negotiate your going-away package with your employer. (This consultation would be in addition to, rather than in place of, any consultation with an employment lawyer.)
Expect that your organization initially will say "no" to most of your requests as it usually takes a little push before they say "yes". However, if you handle your negotiation carefully, you usually can win some concessions/additional benefits. With that in mind, here are some less-obvious provisions to ask for:
POSTPONEMENT OF TERMINATION DATE
Your termination date is negotiable! While employees often ask to keep their jobs (which almost never works), few employees think to ask for a later termination date. If it's near the end of the year, it is very important that you do your best to have your termination date pushed into the next calendar year (January 1 is fine).
- Ask to have your last day of actual work (on site or off) pushed out a few months (with the idea that you'd get a severance or salary continuation (when you're not working) after after that. Reasons can be: 1.) so you can finish the xyz project, 2.) so you can help the pdq department with their big project, 3.) because you're going to have trouble finding a job and if you're unemployed while you look you'll never find one (this is one time when seeming like a sad sack might be helpful!).
- If you try hard to negotiate the scenario above and fail, ask to exchange your x months of severance for exchanged for x months of salary continuation (with the idea that you would not be working during this time). Most companies offer a lump-sum severance package, but we recommend that you ask them to give it to you as salary continuation so that your official termination date is postponed for as long as possible.
- If you try hard to negotiate the scenario above and fail, ask to go on an unpaid leave of absence for a few months and to be terminated thereafter.
- If your company offers outplacement (career transition) services, ask to use a boutique career consulting firm (like us!) rather than your company's usual outplacement provider. As with other requests, most companies will decline this request at first, but many will ultimately agree if pushed as the change of provider doesn't cost them anything. Note: As outplacement is a tax-deductible expense for the employer if they pay the provider directly (and a tax-free benefit to you), employers rarely will agree to give you cash in exchange.
- If your company does not offer outplacement services, ask for the organization to pay for transition services with a boutique career consultant. If they say no, ask for a smaller package such as two months or eight hours.
ELIMINATION OR REDUCTION OF NON-COMPETE
- It is crucial that you negotiate any non-compete clause in your agreement that will impede your job search. Even if you believe your employer won't enforce the non-compete, or you believe it is illegally restrictive, it can still hurt you. Some employers ask candidates about non-compete restrictions and won't consider you as a candidate if they exist. Please expect your organization to say no to the first time - it usually takes a little push before they say yes. Consider hiring a lawyer to advise you and/or to negotiate for you.
- Even if you know you don't want to work in the same industry, keep your plans to yourself. As the law requires employers to offer a larger severance package if they expect you not to compete for an extended period, you may be able to negotiate more severance due to a tough non-compete.
IMPROVED COMPENSATION & BENEFITS
- Ask your company to extend your company-provided health insurance. If your spouse is working, you should be able to join his or her plan. If that's not an option, and your company won't continue to pay for your coverage, you can continue your plan at your own expense. Under federal legislation known as COBRA (for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985), your insurance company must allow you to continue your medical coverage for at least 18 months. While COBRA is expensive, the alternative is worse. If you drop your coverage and you or someone in your family requires major medical care while you're uninsured, the costs could bankrupt you.
- If you have vested stock options that are under water" — selling for less than the price you must pay to exercise them — ask if they can be repriced.
- Change your tax withholding for your remaining paychecks. If you're married and your spouse is working, adjust withholding on that paycheck to reduce the amount of tax withheld. With only one wage earner in the family, you'll probably fall into a lower tax bracket, so it's less likely you'll end up owing the IRS.
- File an unemployment insurance claim in the first week that you have become totally or partially unemployed. It is important to file in a timely manner as in many states your first week is an unpaid waiting week, so a delay may cost you benefits. For more information about New York's program, click: http://www.labor.state.ny.us/ui/how_to_file_claim.shtm.