7 Ways to Negotiate Your Severance Package

Two businessmen having a serious discussion in an office

Being offered a severance package can only mean one of two things: you either need to start scouring for a new job or it’s time to put your negotiation face on.

Negotiating your severance package can prove to be a tricky task. However, it could be essential in order to ensure that you receive fair treatment from your employer.

The reality is that very few people spend time dreaming about what the ideal severance package would be, and that’s understandable. Its association with unemployment and sudden career changes makes it an unpleasant subject to put a lot of thought into.

However, should you ever be faced with this reality, it’s best to be prepared about what the next step should be. Ideally, your severance package should include a fair severance payment amongst other benefits. Nevertheless, as we live in a less-than-ideal world, you might find yourself wanting to address some issues with your severance agreement.

Even if negotiation isn’t your forte, these tips will help you negotiate the terms of your severance package and ensure that you receive everything you are entitled to from your former employer.

1. Be Prepared

First things first, before you march into your ex-employer’s office, make sure that you know what you want to negotiate for. Preparation is, therefore, key.

Give yourself the time to consider what is being offered. After all, your severance agreement isn’t exactly a document that you want to skim and scan.

Read through it carefully, and make sure you understand all the stated terms; and if there’s something you don’t understand, ask for clarification. Meanwhile, if you think something could be altered, modified or omitted entirely from the final draft, make a note of it and enquire about it.

2. Know Your Rights

Severance pay policies vary from country to country, and it’s important to check your country’s labour laws to ensure you have all the facts.

Indeed, it’s essential that you are informed of the legislation and procedures that your employer is required to follow. That way, you will be fully aware of any legal claims you might have regarding your termination pay.

Familiarising yourself with the company’s policies is also crucial to ensure that all your rights are being met. Utilise your employee handbook to ensure that both the employer and the severance package abide by these standards.

And remember: the more informed you are on the subject, the more negotiating leverage you will have.

3. Hire Legal Help

Your severance package might contain several legal terms that you will have to agree upon. Hiring an attorney to review the agreement could mean that you save yourself from the mind-boggling legal jargon. This could also be necessary to determine if it is consistent with labour laws as well as your employee rights.

For example, if you have reason to believe that you have been wrongfully terminated, then you consider consulting an attorney before agreeing to or negotiating your severance package.

All in all, if you think your severance package is not in line with certain legal requirements, or you feel overwhelmed by its content, seeking legal help could be a viable option. Either way, this will make negotiations easier for you as you will be fully briefed on every term that you will need to agree upon before accepting the severance package.

4. Have a Solid Proposal

Negotiating a suitable agreement includes considering how to conduct yourself during discussions with the employer.

Prior to any negotiations, reflect on your position within the company. Consider how many years you worked there, what you offered to the company, and the approximate amount of time it could take you to find a new job in the current economic climate. Your answers should inform your severance package proposal, help you reach a fair settlement and help you make your case more convincing.

It’s essential to be aware of your financial needs and to have a list of benefits that you will negotiate for. Having a clear outline of what you want to discuss will aid the process to go smoothly and help you present a more structured and organised argument to your ex-employer.

Additionally, if you have a good service record, use it to your benefit, along with your achievements within the company. Don’t hesitate to use your past contributions to your advantage. This will put you in a better position to negotiate a more suitable severance package, and it will solidify your arguments further.

5. Give and Take

Another way to encourage your employer to offer you a better severance package is by offering your services, albeit partially, in return.

Just because you were laid off, it doesn’t mean you should cut all ties with your ex-employer.

Working as a freelancer or on per diem basis could be more economical and efficient for the company, and it’s a great way – even temporarily – to guarantee an income. Your willingness to contribute your services could also show your ex-employer that you don’t hold any grudges against them, and this could encourage them to agree on better terms for your severance package.

6. Ask for More (Than Just Money)

Don’t get me wrong; ensuring that you will have some money influx will make the job-searching period a lot easier. All I’m saying is you should consider asking for more than just monetary benefits. After all, your severance package should consist of more than just a layoff payment, and you should try to get as much out of it as you can.

Here are a few some examples of other benefits you could negotiate for:

  • Health benefits: This is especially important if you have any chronic health issues or if you cannot afford to pay for insurance on your own.
  • Exit message: Check if you can use your employer as a reference, and agree with them on your message for why you were let go. This will be particularly useful in future interviews.
  • Work opportunities: Ask your company to keep you on for freelance work or use you as a consultant on different projects. This could help you stay afloat financially while you are searching for a new job position.
  • Job search assistance: The least your employer could do is help you get back on your feet and find a new job elsewhere. You could also ask for career counselling, which will allow you to polish your portfolio before entering the job hunt.

7. Stand Your Ground

In an ideal situation, your ex-boss will be eager to reach a solution with you in an amicable fashion. However, should you not be that lucky, don’t get coxed into agreeing to an unfavourable severance package. If you think your ex-employer is being unreasonable, try to negotiate with them, and if it proves to be an impossible task, consult your attorney.

Although you should be firm during negotiations, you should also make them aware that you are flexible and willing to reach a mutually agreed severance package. Perhaps if they cannot offer you a specific request, they could substitute it with something else instead. Consider what you are asking of the company and ensure that your terms are feasible. 

Being let go by your employer is certainly not the textbook definition of a pleasant experience. However, negotiating the severance package that is offered to you can make this process much more beneficial. If there is one thing to take away from this is that there is always room for negotiation.

Have you ever had to negotiate a severance package? Do you have any other tips? Leave us a comment below!