7 steps to take if you think you'll be laid off so you can have peace of mind if the unexpected happens

·5 min read
FILE PHOTO: People who lost their jobs wait in line to file for unemployment following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at an Arkansas Workforce Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas, U.S. April 6, 2020. REUTERS/Nick Oxford
Be prepared.Reuters
  • Unilever is cutting 1,500 management jobs as shareholders pressure the company to ramp up growth.

  • If you suspect you may be laid off soon, here's what HR and retirement experts want you to know.

  • For example, you should know where to access your state's unemployment application.

Unilever, the consumer goods company that owns brands such as Ben & Jerry's, Dove, and Vaseline, is cutting 1,500 global management jobs.

The cuts are part of Unilever's plan to ramp up growth, largely in response to pressure from investor Trian Fund Management LP, which recently acquired a stake in the company. Unilever currently employs about 149,000 people.

Whether you work at Unilever and are waiting to see whether you get the ax, or you're employed elsewhere and you're concerned about your job security, it's a good idea to organize the documents and information you need in case you get let go.

Insider compiled a list of seven things to know from human resource and retirement experts. These tips are helpful for both people who have been laid off, are now without a job, as well as people who have been furloughed, or have been forced to take an unpaid leave of absence from work.

This story was originally published in May 2020.

The first thing you should do if you are laid off or furloughed is make sure you know how to contact your HR department for any follow up questions or documentation you may need from the company.

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While every company operates differently, usually an HR professional is the best resource for an unemployed worker, said Kristin Andreski, senior vice president of service operations at ADP.

"They'll be able to share more about company policy, current federal and state legislation, as well the best practices for filing for unemployment benefits," she told Insider.

If you are laid off or furloughed in person, by telephone, or video conference, and can ask questions, ask for your company's Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN).

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Some states require this for filling out unemployment claims, so it's handy to have.

A Federal Tax Identification Number is the unique nine-digit number assigned by the IRS to business operating in the US. You can also locate this number on a W-2 form for your most recent employer, or by calling your employer's HR department.

Next, visit your state's unemployment website right away.

coronavirus unemployment
A man outside the New York State Department of Labor in New York City during the coronavirus outbreak, April 9, 2020.Associated Press

Laid-off or furloughed workers should immediately file for unemployment through their state. Here is the government website to help you find your state's unemployment department, which has all the specific directions.

It's important not to wait, says Steven Auerbach, chairman and former CEO of Alegeus, a consumer-directed healthcare technology company.

Once you know what your state requires, prepare any necessary documents or information.

US Social Security Office
An American flag flutters in the wind next to signage for a United States Social Security Administration office in Burbank, California on October 25, 2012.Fred Prouser/Reuters

Documentation and information varies by state, but most states usually require a person to submit their:

  • Social Security Number

  • Driver's license number

  • Mailing address

  • Your phone number

  • Your employer's name, address, and Federal Employer Identification (FEIN number), which you can get from your employer.

  • Many states allow direct deposit of unemployment checks, so have your bank account number and routing number handy. You can get this from a check you have from your active bank account, or can call your bank.

Ask your former employer about health insurance and COBRA.

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Find out how your long healthcare is covered by your employer. Is it through the end of the month? Longer? You'll want to find out. That way, you know when you're eligible to enroll in COBRA.

What is COBRA? COBRA is a health insurance program that allows eligible employees and their dependents the continued benefits of health insurance coverage when an employee loses their job or experiences a reduction of work hours.

If you enroll in COBRA, you will pay a monthly premium to receive the same health insurance their employer previously subsidized, Auerbach explained.

"There's a good possibility that COBRA premiums may be subsidized by the federal government in a forthcoming stimulus bill, but so far that has yet to occur," he added.

Ask about using your HSA account for out-of-pocket healthcare expenses.

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If you had an HSA account, or a tax-advantaged health savings account, you can still use those funds for qualified, out-of-pocket healthcare expenses at any time. If you continue to receive health insurance from your employer or are enrolled in COBRA, you can continue to use HSA funds for co-pays and prescriptions.

"A provision in the recent CARES Act even makes over-the-counter medicine HSA-eligible without a prescription," Auerbach said.

If you're laid off, get contact information and any other information regarding your 401(k) or other retirement fund from your employer.

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"Once you secure new employment, if your employer offers a 401(k), you can typically consolidate the old with the new. Separately, you have the option to roll your 401(k) funds over to an individual retirement account (IRA)," Auerbach said.

It's important you have the contact information from your former employer's retirement fund manager so you can roll over your 401(k) or other fund to your next employer.

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