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Wednesday focus: The workplace

Wed., April 1, 2009

It may not be much solace to the 4.4 million people who’ve been laid off since the recession began in December 2007, but a new survey shows most companies are at least remaining generous with their severance packages. Plus, laid-off workers often can negotiate a higher payout or other benefits, experts say.

Sixty-five percent of companies said their severance packages are unchanged, while 19 percent said they made them bigger, according to a survey of about 1,000 companies of different sizes and from a broad range of industries. Survey responses were collected throughout 2008.

Severance packages often are one to two weeks of pay per year of service, though the total amount paid varies widely by company size and the employee’s job.

About 80 percent of firms surveyed said administrative and support staff are eligible for severance pay. Almost 90 percent said executives are eligible.

Four percent of firms surveyed said administrative staff don’t get severance, and 1 percent said executives don’t get it.

Payouts at the executive level are likelier to be based on a combination of salary, title and years of service, while lower-level workers’ severance often is based solely on years of service.

And, at companies that said they have a maximum payout, senior executives are likelier to be eligible for a year or more of severance pay, while professionals and administrative staff are likelier to be limited to 26 weeks, according to the survey.

At companies with 500 or fewer employees, the maximum is likelier to be 13 weeks.

Check your facts: Frustrated job hunters often fear that former employers are bad-mouthing them and preventing them from getting hired.

Some ask friends or relatives to pose as potential employers or fact checkers, call, and try to find out what’s being said.

Suspicions may be confirmed – or not.

Here’s another way to do it for a not-too-hefty cost: hire a reference-checking service.

Some job hunters wrongly assume that professional reference checking is available only to employers. Not so. Some companies will run the checks in a job hunter’s behalf.

Jeff Shane, vice president of Allison & Taylor Inc., a reference-checking company, said his company finds that more than half of all reference checks they do elicit negative information.

From wire reports


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