Upcoming Job Layoffs: What to Expect

Job layoffs are one of the most stressful experiences that workers can face. Understanding the layoff process can make the ordeal a little more manageable.

Why You've Been Laid Off

It may be little comfort during job layoffs, but laid-off workers should remember that layoffs are different from terminations. Layoffs occur when a large number of people are all losing their jobs. The loss of job is not due to poor performance but because the company is going out of business or merging and closing down the entire company, locations or departments to increase revenue. Companies do not lay off workers lightly; in fact, in case they're sued, they must have a legal team provide a detailed justification for the job layoffs. The company cannot, for example, use layoffs to hide the fact that they're replacing an entire staff with new, cheaper workers in the exact same positions.

Get Everything as Clearly as Possible

The first step to job layoffs is notification. The procedure differs from company to company, but if a company with 100 employees or more is laying off a certain percent of the workforce (usually 500 employees or 1/3 of the workforce, whichever is smaller), you're guaranteed as much advanced notice as possible. However, you could be given only a day or two of notice.

No matter how much notice you're given, try to remain calm and ask for the situation to be explained to you as clearly as possible. If you haven't been given written notice, ask for it. You want to know how many more days you can work for the company. You also need to know if there will be any severance pay and/or bonuses if you continue to work for the company for a certain number of days, and you should find out what kind of outplacement services the company is willing to offer, if any.

What to Do Once You Know You're Being Laid Off

Assuming the company's job layoffs aren't overnight, you will have a small bubble of time in order to get your affairs in order. With severance pay and bonuses--which are not always guaranteed--you'll have a bit of a financial cushion and some extra time to continue to support yourself as you transition into new work. However, you should begin searching for new work immediately, as the job market is not always favorable.

You should also begin to look into unemployment benefits, in case you're unable to get work quickly. If your current company doesn't have an outplacement team to help you, go into the local Department of Employment Security. Bring along written documentation of the layoff and have a worker there help you through the process of applying for and collecting benefits.

Continue working your current job to the utmost of your ability, even when you know you're being laid off. Not doing so may make you ineligible for severance pay and bonuses and may also ruin your chances for a good recommendation for a new job.