What to do when a layoff occurs: Five tips

No one likes to think about being laid off, but in today’s shaky economy it can happen to employees even in fields that once seemed secure. If the bad news does come your way, resist the temptation to lash out at your boss. Instead, consider these five tips:

Get what’s coming to you: Make sure that any promise of money due you is put in writing, advised Lita Epstein, author of “Surviving a Layoff.” This should include your final check, of course. But also, if relevant, severance pay, accrued vacation pay, sick pay, reimbursement for expenses, and entitlements to future commissions and bonuses.

Check your options for severance pay: Ask if you have a choice between being paid the money owed you in a lump sum or over a period of time, Epstein said, because it can affect your taxes and unemployment benefits. Before you commit to either option, if available, check with your tax advisor about which might be better for your situation.

Make copies of your contact lists: “The most valuable thing you can take with you when you leave your job are your contacts,” Epstein emphasized. “These are the people who will start the network you will need to find your next job.” If possible, occasionally save a copy of your updated list so it’s available to you at a moment’s notice.


Strive to get a positive recommendation: “You definitely want to get in writing that your employer will provide a favorable letter or recommendation,” Epstein said. “Even better, you should draft that letter and get your employer to agree to it prior to signing your separation agreement.”

File for unemployment benefits: If it’s a true layoff, and not a firing, you are probably eligible for the payments. Go to the state Employment Development Department site ( for information and to apply online. You can also call the agency at (800) 300-5616, but wait times can be long.