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You work for a company that has been going through a lot of changes and upheaval.  Word is going around about lay-offs and you worry you will be next. If you’ve been an exemplary employee and the lay-off is not because of anything you’ve done, be sure you ask these three questions as you are being handed your Pink Slip:

1. Ask for a Letter of Reference.  You can use this to help you land that new job because it will be beneficial to have a letter that praises you and your accomplishments.  This will show future employers that your termination was a business decision and not because of any wrong-doing on your part. Most people forget to ask about this, and it is difficult to try to go back later and ask for one.

2. Ask about severance pay. You are not automatically guaranteed this unless it was stipulated in your employment contract when you were hired.. Typically, one week of severance is given for each year of service to the company, but this can be negotiable. And, especially if you’ve recently finished an important project, been honored or achieved a major goal, be sure to remind them.  It may buy you another week of severance pay they weren’t planning on giving.

3. Are you entitled to unused vacation pay? In most cases, the answer is no. Some companies allow you to roll over your unused time from one year to the next, while others have a use it or lose it policy. Most companies will explain their rules in the employee handbook, but asking to be paid for your unused vacation pay just may earn you a few extra dollars you could use right now.

You may not get any severance or vacation pay, and you especially won’t if you don’t ask for it.  Don’t forget, this is a very difficult situation for your boss, too, so he or she may be willing to give you more than had been planned on. You’ll never know unless you try, and the worst they can do is say no. If the moment passes, chances are you won’t have another opportunity to ask these questions again. Knowing ahead of time what to ask for may give you the confidence to speak up for yourself at this difficult time.  Good luck!

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