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Coping with layoffs

You might not like it, but you may have to prepare for the day you lose your job.

You might not like it, but you may have to prepare for the day you lose your job.

It’s an ugly reality workers face during an economic downturn, especially one as severe as the current crisis Canadians are experiencing.

Companies often cut jobs to save on their budget, which might mean layoffs for you or those with whom you work. It’s a harrowing experience for those who have gone through it, but if you know your rights and your options, you can survive it and get back on your feet relatively quickly.

“The old saying goes, ‘If your neighbour loses his job, it’s a recession, but if you lose your job, it’s a depression,’” says Laurell Ritchie, national representative for the Canadian Auto Workers union. “These days, many people are nervous about losing their job.”

Layoffs aren’t always fair. Contracts often dictate the terms of your employment and since they’re more than likely drafted by the company, they’ll favour its rights over your own. Your province will have employment standard laws in this regard. (Under the Ontario Employment Standards Act, for example, an employer doesn’t have to prove “just cause” to get rid of you. But if you feel you’ve been let go undeservedly, you may have a case to complain to the Ontario Human Rights Commission if you can prove discrimination.) Experts advise consulting an employment lawyer.

Though there’s little you can do to prevent it, Ritchie notes there are tell-tale signs that layoffs at your company are on their way.

“Watch out for reductions in work hours that last more than a couple of weeks, especially if the employer doesn’t arrange for E.I. work sharing benefits,” she said. “Layoffs may also follow if an employer restructures or there’s a change in ownership. And of course, layoffs are always a risk when inventories are building up while orders drop off.”

“People need to make sure they stay in control of their life,” Andrea Garson, vice-president of human resources at Workopolis, said. “Focus on what you can do. Certainly our ability to find more work is dependent on the daily goals we set for ourselves. Accept support from other people. Companies may offer out placement services, which people should absolutely avail themselves of. If you’re coping, help your family cope too. Also set up a budget: Life can’t go on as normal, so people have to adjust their spending.”

Above all else, it’s important to remember that you’re probably not to blame. In situations of this kind it’s the position that has become redundant, not you. Keep in mind that you’ve still got the skill and experience to find new work, and options are available to help you do that.

“Remember, there are big changes happening in the economy. The layoff is not your fault,” says Ritchie.

 
 
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