Losing your job is stressful and daunting, whether you're fired for cause or your employer simply had to make cuts for financial reasons. Many of us identify who we are with what we do, so a termination can feel like a huge blow to our sense of self-identity and self-worth. One of the first thoughts that will come to mind if you’re ever in this position is probably ‘What do I do now?’ The following list serves as a guide through the “What now?” question by outlining the top 10 things to do if you’re terminated:
1. Stay calm
There will probably be a significant amount of information provided to you in the termination meeting. The more coolheaded you remain, the more likely you will be to retain that information. Listening carefully to what your employer is saying will help you formulate options going forward and develop a plan of action.
Don’t lose your temper. While you can certainly voice any concerns or issues that you have with the termination, remember to do so in a respectful manner. Being terminated is frustrating and hurtful, but yelling or calling someone out might be harmful to you in the long run. Staying calm and respectful will go a long way to preserving your reputation with your employer, which will be helpful when you begin your new job search.
2. Don’t sign anything immediately
While you might just want to get the whole exchange over with, if you’re offered a severance package, don’t sign it immediately. Most of the time your employer won’t ask you to sign a document immediately and will provide you with time to look it over. Make sure the employer has provided you with at least a week to review their offer so that you can properly consider it and get advice from a lawyer if needed.
3. Return any of the employer’s property
You might be inclined to hang on to property you’ve come to see as yours, such as your telephone or laptop, but you can’t keep your employer’s property. Anything the employer requests should be returned immediately.
4. Gather all documentation relevant to your employment
Do you have an employment contract and/or a letter of offer? Have you ever signed a confidentiality or non-solicitation agreement? Collect any documents related to the terms of your employment. These documents will help determine what you’re entitled to in terms of pay and benefits upon termination, and outline any continuing duties or obligations you might have to your employer. If you haven’t kept a copy of these, you can ask your employer to provide you with copies. If you do see a lawyer, your lawyer will likely request this documentation, so gathering it in advance saves time and money.
5. Prepare detailed notes of anything that might be relevant to your termination
This is another thing your lawyer might ask of you. Draft a chronology of your employment history and any events leading to your termination. Include any information that might be relevant such as any leave taken, accommodation requests, any comments made by your employer or co-workers, or any concerns you might have about harassment or discrimination.
6. Have the severance package reviewed by a lawyer
Without training in employment law, it can be very difficult to navigate a severance package and any related documents to discern what you’re entitled to. Even if the package appears fair, you’ll protect your interests by having it reviewed by a lawyer. Don’t avoid seeing a lawyer because you’re worried you’ll become embroiled in a dispute or costly litigation. If the employer has given you what you’re entitled to, you probably will not require any further action beyond an initial consultation. Even if you are entitled to more than you’re being provided, the lawyer’s role is only to alert you to this fact; though a lawyer will provide his or her professional opinion, you are the ultimate decision-maker with respect to whether you want to take any further action to recover more from your employer. Simply being entitled to more doesn’t mean you have to pursue it if you really don’t want to, but it’s important to know your options.
7. Talk to your employer about how you’ll notify co-workers or clients about your departure
If you retain a lawyer, this is something they can negotiate on your behalf, but if you opt not to retain a lawyer, this is a topic you might want to discuss with your employer. Many people feel embarrassed when they lose their job and worry that co-workers or clients will think less of them. While sending a message to co-workers and/or clients on your own might come across poorly or risk running afoul of any non-solicitation agreements, you should discuss this with your employer and see if together, you can draft something that preserves both your interests.
8. Apply for Employment Insurance (EI) benefits
Even though your severance package might involve keeping you on payroll for several weeks or even months, you should apply for EI as soon as you stop working. You should indicate on your application that you will be receiving pay until a particular date, as receiving EI when you’re still receiving pay from your employer will result in an overpayment that you will have to reimburse. Failure to apply for EI within four weeks of stopping work may result in loss of your ability to claim benefits. Find more information on EI here.
9. Find out what your benefits are
Employers are required by law to continue any benefits for the duration of the statutory notice period. Confirm that your benefits will remain intact, and if you have any medical needs that require attention, deal with them now while you’re still covered. Also be sure to submit any existing claims for benefits that you have not yet submitted to your insurer.
10. Stay away from social media
Facebook and Twitter might seem like the perfect platforms for venting your frustrations, but resist this temptation! Even if you don’t think you have anyone from your employer on your ‘friends’ list, saying negative things about your employer or even commenting on your termination could cause you headaches down the road: you might breach confidentiality agreements or other obligations to your employer, or might damage your reputation with prospective employers.