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Once you’ve been offered a severance package, it’s tempting to accept it right away. With the anger and frustration of losing your job along with the pressure that your human resources department might put on you to sign, it’s understandable to want to move the process along as quickly as possible. Before you sign, however, it’s important to understand what is being offered to you, what rights you have, and that you’re not at the mercy of your former employer.
First and foremost, it’s never advisable to accept a severance package right away — without reviewing your options. Most severance packages are offered and must be accepted during a certain timeframe. Depending on the situation, this time frame can be anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Take the full amount of time that you have been allotted in order to carefully consider the severance package. If you feel that there is room for negotiation, than there are certain aspects that you need to think about before you head to the negotiating table.
–Have you made significant contributions to the company during your tenure?
–Do you have a history of receiving good performance reviews?
–Did you have any special achievements or receive any special recognition for you work?
These are just a few of the questions that will help give perspective to what you have professionally contributed to your organization, as well as offer a solid starting point for negotiating, which can be a difficult process. If you feel uncomfortable negotiating on your own behalf, consider hiring an employment lawyer as an adviser. Bringing a lawyer into the fray might set your employer on edge and make negotiating more difficult, so make sure that all communication on the matter happens between you and your employer.
When negotiating, don’t just think in terms of money. There are other concessions that you should seek that are just as valuable. In addition to pay, extended health benefits and training are negotiable provisions, as well as outplacement services. Depending on the company, outplacement services can range from allowing you continued use of your office space to assistance in finding new employment. Part of your discussion can include how references for future employment will be handled, who should be contacted and what will be said.
Do keep in mind that the bigger the lay-off, the harder it will be to negotiate a better severance package. An employer may be concerned about setting the precedence for negotiating with other employees. If you lost your job through a mass lay-off, you may have to be content with what you were offered. It doesn’t hurt to seek counsel on how you should approach your severance. Whatever the case, make sure you understand the terms of your severance agreement. You are signing a legally binding document and not fully understanding the contract today could lead to trouble tomorrow.