7 questions you need to ask if you are laid off

Illustration: Ashley Siebels

When you get laid off, it’s hard to think clearly and know how to respond. Some things are valuable to know before you start to search for your next job. 

Here are a couple of questions you should always ask if you are laid off.

What is my last day?

If you’re filing for unemployment, know when your last day is going to be.

Inform what your official last day is, and make sure to communicate that when you apply for unemployment.

When is my last paycheck?

When you are laid off, you want to know what your financial position is. Ask when your last paycheck is going to be, as you want to know when to expect it.

Most companies will pay you with the next payment cycle and will automatically deduct anything that is still outstanding.

However, always be sure to ask your employer. 

What about my outstanding vacation?

If you didn’t expect to be laid off, you probably have outstanding vacation or personal time. Most employers have guidelines for these situations specified in their employee handbook.

You want to know what their policy is, so you can point that out to them when they don’t comply. 

Will there be any severance pay?

Severance packages can contain all different kinds of things. They can offer you a lump sum of money, help you find a new job, or extend your healthcare benefits. 

You should know that you can negotiate your severance pay and other benefits. Your employer wants to keep you satisfied and doesn’t want any conflict when you leave. Stay within limits, but negotiate when severance pay is offered. 

While getting a lump sum of money may feel good at the beginning, be sure not to spend all the money without thinking about it. Creating a budget is extremely important, so you know where your money is going and how much you have left. 

What about my healthcare plan?

Health coverage is a big question mark when you are laid off. Be sure to ask about the healthcare plan. You need to know how long you will receive the medical benefits. 

Talking to HR is crucial to know how long you keep your health insurance and how much it will cost you. Healthcare benefits are another thing that you want to negotiate about if you can.  

What happens with my 401(k)?

Ask your employer what will happen to your 401(k). You can probably still contribute money to it, as long as you do it before your last paycheck. You can contribute $19,500 in 2020, and what will happen after you leave the company varies. 

Discuss with your employer what your options are. If they don’t have all the information, talk to a financial advisor. 

Can you provide a reference?

When you’re going to search for a new job, it would be ideal if you could get a reference from the company.

While it may not be something you think about right now, you will be happy you did it. Know who to contact for the reference and discuss how you will set this up. 

Besides, you should discuss what information they will provide when a hiring manager calls for a reference check.

Some companies will briefly review performance, while others only confirm that you worked there. Know what to expect and communicate this to the hiring manager.