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‘I Got Laid Off and Now the Company Wants Me Back (at a Discount)’

Topics: Career Advice

Layoffs are a lot like breakups, especially in the aftermath. You might find yourself nursing your pride, on top of your heartbreak. You might even fantasize about your ex crawling back to you.

It does happen, in business as in your personal life. But as one Redditor found, having your former employer pop up again isn’t always a positive experience.

In /r/personalfinance, mcgyver229 writes:

Three months ago, I was laid off as part of a 60-person layoff in a small company of 125 people. I did occupational health and safety work as I was the manager. I was given unemployment; been searching for jobs.

Fast forward three months, tax bill passed, etc. I get a phone call from the president of the company asking me to come in because he has an opportunity. He tells me things are picking back up and the company needs me back but he’s trying to shop me at a discounted rate.

I had been with the company six years and he says he wants to give me 20 hours at 60 percent of what I was making to do consulting work for four months until my lease is up. This seems like a super lowball offer especially because they don’t have to train anyone, I already know all of the employees, I am familiar with their policies as I wrote many of them. Also after four months I can’t get back on unemployment and having taken such a drastic pay cut I wouldn’t be very well-equipped to ask for more money in the future.

I feel like this is a slap in the face and I want to counteroffer their 60 percent slap with a 125 percent slap back.

Does this seem unreasonable?? Just seeking some guidance.

What Should OP Do Next?

laid off
Pablo García Saldaña/Unsplash

Mcgyver229’s dilemma is one that you might encounter, especially if the economy stays strong but businesses choose to invest their tax breaks in temporary measures like bonuses and contract workers.

It’s not an easy decision: on the one hand, if you’re unemployed, any cash might seem better than no cash (or a relatively paltry unemployment check). But on the other hand, as OP notes, taking a contract job likely mean the end of unemployment coverage. It might also mean re-entering the job search tied to a lower rate.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, keep these things in mind before you decide on a course of action:

1. Contractors Typically Bill More Per Hour Than Employees

Several Redditors pointed out that both the offer and OP’s counter are a little low, considering that Mcgyver229 would no longer get the same benefits as an employee.

“200 percent for consultation,” A1t2o advises. “You no longer get healthcare or retirement benefits, plus you know this will be ending soon and have to plan on some reserves to get you to your next job. You might break even at 150 percent, but you need to get a little ahead here.”

Others agreed, offering various ranges from 150 percent to several times the usual hourly rate.

“Do more math,” NoShameInternets says. “125 percent is still low. Keep in mind this is a temporary gig. Part of salary negotiation is the comfort of having a steady salary for the foreseeable future. If you’re coming on for four months, you deserve to be compensated more.”

2. The Job Market Is Tight Right Now

Several Redditors reminded OP that while they might be feeling desperate for work, their former employer is also feeling the pinch, or they wouldn’t be reaching out.

The fact is that it’s a tight job market out there right now. Unemployment is at a 17-year low. Even wages are starting to show some movement, after years of post-recession stagnation and slow growth. If you’re unemployed, none of that changes the fact that you need a job. But depending on your situation, it might empower you to hold out for a better offer.

The most important thing is to go into any negotiation with an accurate perception of your worth on the current job market. In less than 10 minutes, PayScale’s Salary Survey can tell you whether your expectations are in line with reality. You might be pleasantly surprised when you find out the real salary range for someone with your experience and skills.

3. Only You Know Your Circumstances and What’s Best for You

The best advice in the world is useless if it doesn’t fit your situation. If you find yourself in a position like OP’s, do your research, ask for advice from trusted advisors (or internet forums) … but consider your own needs and priorities.

If you have savings and/or other offers on the table, ask for more. If you’re in a financial bind and need money, don’t beat yourself up for taking a low-ball offer in a pinch. Just make sure you’re looking at the big picture — benefits, unemployment eligibility, etc. — and then do what you need to do, whether it’s taking the job or walking away.

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Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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