9 Questions to Ask When Being Laid Off

If your company is currently facing layoffs and you fear your job is in jeopardy, you may be wondering what to do. Before you jump to thoughts of next steps and job applications, it’s important to fully understand what a layoff means for you, your income, and your benefits.    

9 questions to ask when being laid off

Though there may be a million questions running through your head, we’ve rounded up nine important ones to ask that will help you navigate the coming days, weeks, and months.

1. When is my last day?

Is your layoff effective immediately or does your employer expect you to stick around for a few more weeks? One of the first questions you should ask is when your last day is.

This answer will give you a better idea of what the coming weeks will look like. This will also be important to know if you plan on filing for unemployment. 

If your employer expects you to stay on board for a few more weeks, ask about what your last weeks will entail. Will you be training other team members? Will you be wrapping up the big project you’ve been working on? Make sure you have a clear understanding of the expectations.

2. When will I receive my last paycheck?

Knowing when your last paycheck will arrive can help you better plan your short-term finances and budget for the weeks ahead. 

3. Will I get paid for unused vacation time?

Have you been sitting on your paid time off waiting to use in the future? You may be entitled to compensation for the unused vacation time, depending on your company’s policy.

If you have a bank of vacation time that is still unused, find out whether or not you will be paid for it. Policies regarding compensation for unused personal time can usually be found in an employee handbook.

4. Will I get a severance package?

A severance package is one thing that can help ease the burden of a layoff. Typically, severance agreements are made when an employee is hired or are written in company policy. If you are unsure what you are entitled to, ask your HR leaders.

Typical severance packages include monetary compensation. The amount can vary and can be calculated in a number of ways, but it is usually given in a lump sum. Additionally, a severance package can include things like:

  • Continuation of benefits for a specified period of time
  • Continuation of company perks such as gym membership, discounts at partnering retailers, etc.
  • Assistance finding a new job or career transition services

Keep in mind that severance packages are not a legal requirement, and not all employers offer them. 

5. What happens to my bonuses or commissions?

If you earn annual bonuses or commissions at work, find out how that will be paid and when. 

6. How long will I receive healthcare coverage?

This is one of the most important questions to ask when being laid off. Since insurance premiums are paid in advance, you may be covered for a period after you leave the company. In many instances, coverage will last through the end of the month. Some policies may last longer, others may end sooner.

After that policy ends, you have three main options:

  • Sign up for COBRA coverage
  • Buy a plan through the Marketplace
  • Enroll in a new plan through a new employer

COBRA is a federal law that may let you pay to stay on your employee health insurance for up to 18 months after your job ends. You pay the full premium yourself, plus a small administrative fee. COBRA generally applies to all group health plans maintained by private-sector employers with at least 20 employees. Your HR team will be able to give you more information on COBRA and let you know whether or not you are eligible.

According to Healthcare.gov, losing job-based coverage, even if you quit or get fired, qualifies you for a Special Enrollment Period any time to enroll in coverage for the rest of the year.

7. What are my 401(k) options?

Your 401(k) is another important benefit that may see changes if you leave your company. Ask your HR team or plan administrator about your options. 

In some cases, you may be able to leave your money where it is. If not, you can roll your savings into another type of retirement account (typically an IRA) or a new 401(k), if your next employer offers it.

You will also likely have the option to cash out your 401(k). This, however, is typically not recommended by most financial experts. Not only will you likely be subject to a 10% penalty, but you’ll be taxed on the entire value of your account. 

8. Will I be able to be rehired at a later date?

If you feel that your company is a good fit for you, you may be interested in returning in the future if they start hiring again. Ask about what that process may look like. 

A word of caution here: don’t wait around in the hopes that you’ll soon be rehired. Even if a company plans to bring employees back on board in the near future, things can change. 

9. Can I use you as a reference when I start applying for new jobs?

When you start applying for new jobs, you’ll likely need to provide references. In the case of a layoff, your manager or higher-ups should be more than willing to give a positive recommendation to your future potential employers.

To make your life easier when you start applying, start gathering relevant information (name, position, contact information) from your recommenders. You can also connect with them via LinkedIn so you can stay in touch after you’ve left the company. 

What’s next after a layoff

After you get the answers to these nine questions, you can start thinking about your next moves, whether it’s finding a new job or taking the opportunity to explore other career paths. By knowing what to expect in the short term, you can focus on what you need to do for success in the long run.