It’s been a brutal few weeks in media, as BuzzFeed, the Huffington Post, Vice, Gannett and McClatchy laid off thousands of workers. But it’s not just journalists who have been hurting recently: GM is laying off thousands of workers over the next two weeks, Sears’s bankruptcy has imperiled tens of thousands of jobs, and the U.S. government shutdown left hundreds of thousands of people without a paycheck for weeks.
All of these job losses drive home the importance of having an emergency fund (or layoff fund), of course, but there are also plenty of other steps and precautions you can take before and after a layoff to help ease the financial (and psychological) pain.
Prepare As Best You Can
You’re not always going to know when layoffs are coming, but in some cases it can be more obvious than others — your company isn’t doing well, you’ve had a round of layoffs already, or you’re given a heads up.
Yes, you’ll want to increase your cash savings if possible, but there are other things to do as well. Tiffany Yannetta, who was laid off from Racked (which is now The Goods) about a year ago told Charlotte Cowles for the Cut that she made a checklist of important financial tasks to do before she found herself without a job.
She went to her all her doctors’ appointments (in case she lost her health insurance) and did a deep dive on her debit card statements to evaluate her spending. “Obviously, I didn’t have enough time to save anything significant, but at least I had a plan for where I could cut back on expenses,” she says. She also researched industry standards for severance so that when the day arrived she knew exactly what she was going to ask for.
Healthcare can be expensive, so if you work offers you any health benefits then make sure to use them before you lose them - get your eyes and teeth checked before the bill gets bigger.
Additionally, make sure that all of the paperwork for any health insurance accounts are linked to your personal email, so that you can access them easily.
Back Up Your Important Information
If your company owns your computer/mobile phone, make sure you’re consistently backing up any important information you need, like reports you’ve worked on, contact emails, etc.
Too often your access might be shut off before you’re ready when you’re laid off, and you’ll wish you had backups of your work. This is also a reminder not to use your work computer/email for personal communications (for example, planning a trip) that you don’t want to lose access to.
Nobody is immune to layoffs. Whether you're an executive or an entry-level hire, layoffs can - and probably will - affect you at some point in your career. Consultants and freelancers have a bit of a buffer thanks to their multiple income streams, but when their industry suffers, they suffer too. (There's nothing like losing four clients in a single month.)
You Don’t Have to Sign Anything Right Away
If your company gives you a severance agreement to sign, have a lawyer or other representative look over it before you sign (in fact, the agreement will include language encouraging you to do this). Your employer shouldn’t pressure you to sign anything before you’ve been given some time to look over it.
If you can’t afford a lawyer, consider who else might be able to offer advice. “One woman who spoke to me anonymously (she signed an NDA as part of her exit package) was laid off from a start-up and sent her severance paperwork to her best friend, who worked in HR at a different company,” writes Cowles.
It’s important to take your time not only to make sure you’re getting a decent severance package, but because you’ll likely be signing away any of the workplace rights you have.
File for Unemployment
There are three main types of income support in Australia; Newstart Allowance, Youth Allowance for job seekers and Parenting Payment. (While there are other types of income support, none of which are really applicable here.)
Unless you are under the age of 21 then you won't be eligible for Youth Allowance, but if you have a young child that needs taking care of at home then you should be able to apply for Parenting Payment.
Most people will go on Newstart Allowance while they look for their next full time employment, with the age requirements running from 22 to pensioner. As long as you are able to prove that you are actively seeking employment and sending out resumes then you should be able to claim Newstart Allowance. For just how much you can get check out the page as it is based on your situation.
Additionally, consider asking your boss for a letter of recommendation, which will help with your job search.
Take Time for Yourself
Yes, many of us don’t have the financial security to take significant time off without pay. But when you go through something like a layoff, remember to take some time to yourself to regroup and work through your feelings. Our senses of self and worth are tied to our work, being let go can be harmful to our identity and how we perceived ourselves.
If you’re able, don’t jump right into looking for the next thing without reflecting on your old role. And, as Cowles suggests, remember that your old coworkers aren’t the enemy — talking through your situation together might be a helpful way to process your feelings.