LEAVING a job is almost never easy--voluntarily or otherwise. If you are fired there can be unsettling times in store irrespective of whether you have a job offer to fall back on or not. Even as you clear your desk and say your goodbyes, there are still some loose ends waiting to be tied up.
Do you walk out of the door with just your personal belongings and your integrity in tow? No, what you can actually take away depends on a whole lot of laws and statutory rights. But, this depends on whether your termination was lawful or not.
First things first
If there is an employment contract defining the grounds for termination or the tenure of employment, the employer cannot change the terms. If there is a breach of contract, you can make a legal case on grounds of unfair dismissal.
Generally speaking, the cause for dismissal should be just and fair like misconduct, lack of capability, change in company direction or redundancy. However, if the employment is `at will', the management can show you the door even on a flimsy excuse. You cannot challenge the dismissal unless it throws up illegal reasons like discrimination of some kind.
A wrongful discharge suit can result in claims from punitive reparation, back pay, compensatory damages to reinstatement. Also, serving the requisite notice is mandatory, unless there is an express agreement to the contrary. However, gross misconduct can lead to summary dismissal.
What's on the cards?
If the termination is lawful or you have willfully resigned, you do get some termination benefits, which may include:
Though not compulsory by law, most companies offer severance pay to employees who have been downsized. The amount you receive may vary, but it is generally one or two weeks of pay for every year of service. The employer has to pay the employees who resign of their own will and also those who are forced to leave.
Collect your dues
When the final paycheck will be given depends on who initiated the termination. If the management has handed you the pink slip, it has to clear the dues immediately on the last day of work. However, if you turn in your resignation, the payment may not be before your next scheduled payday.
Check company policies as some companies include bonuses, commissions, expenses, unused vacation pay and accrued sick or personal leave in the final settlement. Also, file your expense report and return company equipment as soon as possible.
The company has to continue the coverage of its group health insurance plan for a specified period after you leave - say 18 or 24 months. However, the onus of making the payments will be yours.
Some countries provide unemployment insurance to people for 4-6 months after they leave. In India, it is applicable only to those covered under the Employee's State Insurance Scheme. However, do check the company manual, as some companies may offer unemployment benefits at their own expense.
When you leave, you are entitled to a letter of reference stating the duration of your employment, position held and quality of performance. The opinions should be legitimate and factually true. Before you decide to leave, check the statutory laws and employment contract to know of your legal rights on termination. However, do keep in mind that the above-mentioned benefits cannot be utilised if you are fired for gross misconduct.
The odds are against you if you happen to reveal trade secrets, injure business interests or indulge in harassment, dishonesty or other illegal activities. If you still feel you have been short-changed, you can seek legal help. Before you head out for the tough task of a job-search, make sure you have the employer-rendered security blanket with you this can give you that much-needed protection.