Author of "Your Journey from Fired to Hired"

5 Ways to Negotiate a Severance Package

So things at work haven't been good lately and you've just been offered a severance package. Maybe it's due to the economy or perhaps you were fired. Regardless of the reason, don’t sign it yet……

A Severance Package is a legally binding agreement and when signed, agrees to give up some of your rights. Needless to say, it is imperative you consult with an attorney before you put your John Hancock to anything. But besides making sure the agreement is in your best interest, a good attorney may also find ways to make the offer better for you. The reality is that severance packages are often negotiable. Read the tips below before running to the bank with that check.

1. Get a FREE legal consult. It may sound absurd, but there’s a good chance that your former employer will cover the cost of an initial legal consultation for you. Seem hard to believe that the company that “let you go” is now paying for your legal fees? Not really when you consider that this $300-$400 investment on their part minimizes the chance of you later claiming you signed the agreement under duress.

2. Extension of Health Care benefits. Negotiating an extension of health care benefits happens more often than you realize. This is especially common for employees with hardship cases when either they or a family member are struggling with a serious health issue. In these cases, employers may agree to extend coverage for an additional 3-6 months to help alleviate the stress and financial burden of finding new health insurance.

3. Resignation vs. Termination. Depending on your specific situation, you may have luck negotiating to resign instead of be terminated. In many cases, the employer won't really care about the semantics; they simply want you to leave their organization. And obviously, a resignation can be much easier to explain on your resume and in future job interviews. Keep in mind that unless it’s carefully worded, a resignation can make you ineligible for unemployment benefits. If you decide to try this angle, it’s especially important to consult an attorney.

4. Neutral Letters of Recommendation. If you were displaced due to reorganization or a reduction in headcount, you should be able to obtain a neutral letter of recommendation. A “neutral” letter doesn’t claim you were a rock star but also doesn’t claim you were the unwanted groupie. As the term implies, these typically take a middle of the road stance. Consequently you may think they provide little value. But they can go a long way toward ensuring a potential employer that you left the company on good terms. And you may even be able to snag this type of letter if you were fired. While these requests are certainly a little more difficult to broker, depending on the circumstances, it may be a possibility.

5. Extension of Vacation Time. Employers are frequently open to including more vacation time than has physically been earned in a severance package. So perhaps your employment ended in February, but they agree to include your vacation time for the entire year in your severance package. While you may not physically use the time to take a vacation, it can help boost the total value of your severance package.

Hopefully you’ve gained a few ideas of some ways severance packages can be negotiated. But bottom line; contact an attorney before signing this (or any other) legally binding document. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain….besides the bank will still cash the check tomorrow.

If you've been fired, I'd love to hear from you!  Were you offered a severance package and if so did you negotiate?

Article written by:

Kathi Miller-Miller is a sought after career specialist and author of “Your Journey from Fired to Hired.” Kathi draws on her 25+ years of success (and failures!) to offer her readers advice on topics ranging from dealing with a boss that drives you crazy to managing millennials...all in a light-hearted and easy to read style.

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