The current economic climate is making many people unsure about their job security. The best way to deal with uncertainty is to control what you can control. Be proactive, not reactive. If you suspect your job may be eliminated, here are a few tips to prepare for the loss and help you feel more in control.
Experts agree that the best way to find a new job is through personal and professional contacts. Yet, most laid-off workers are cut off from company computers immediately and can’t retrieve the information that would help them get back on their feet. If you don’t already keep a copy of your contact list, personal files, and work samples on a home computer, start gathering those files now. Update these files regularly. Also keep your résumé up to date, reviewing and revising it at least once a year. If you do lose your job, you won’t have to recreate years of accomplishments.
If you become unemployed, take these steps right away:
1. File for unemployment benefits immediately. It can take a few weeks before your first check arrives, especially now. According to the U.S. Labor Department, unemployment benefits are available to “workers who become unemployed through no fault of their own, and meet certain other eligibility requirements” that vary from state to state. Benefits typically last up to 26 weeks and pay about half what you earned as an employee. However, with the passing of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, you will get an additional $600 per week until July 31. To file a claim, contact your State Unemployment Insurance agency. In some states, you can file a claim online or by phone.
2. Another “must do” for the newly unemployed is to review your severance, or separation, package. It most likely will be made up of many pieces including, in some cases, severance pay, accrued vacation pay, and outplacement services. It’s important that you understand what you’re getting and if there is anything you need to do to take advantage of what’s offered. You also should determine if you believe the package is fair and see if there’s room for negotiation.
3. If your company employs 20 or more workers, you’ll have the option to continue your health insurance benefits for, typically, up to 18 months under COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act). The catch: You’ll have to pay the full premium, plus a small administrative charge, yourself. In many cases, health insurance will be much more expensive than it was when you were an employee. If you’re married, coverage under your spouse’s employer-sponsored medical plan is likely to be more affordable. Loss of coverage is a qualifying event to enroll in a spouse’s health insurance plan midyear. You must enroll within 30 days of a qualifying event. You have 60 days from the date you were laid off to elect a COBRA extension. You will be charged retroactively for the period between your first day of unemployment and the day you started COBRA. Healthcare.gov provides detailed information about COBRA.