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THE QUESTION

I chose not to accept an enhanced separation package, which included a considerable number of weeks' pay in addition to the mandatory notice period and provincial severance pay. I did not sign before the company's deadline because I could not reach an agreement with HR about extended benefits. Now, I wonder what will happen to the additional pay that was offered conditional upon signing. Can I still sign the agreement and get the additional pay?

THE FIRST ANSWER

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Kelsey Robertson

Associate lawyer, Ukrainetz Workplace Law Group, Vernon, B.C.

If you did not accept the offer before the deadline, this means the offer has expired and you have lost the opportunity (for now) to accept the additional monies offered. That said, there is no harm in contacting the employer's authorized representative (either the signatory to the letter or the human resources manager) to see if this offer is still open for acceptance, or to potentially negotiate for an increased sum of money since the extended benefits were not given.

If you decide to negotiate, you may say something along the lines of, "Thank you for the offer of additional severance monies. I would like to resolve the matter, but cannot accept the severance offered. I would be willing to sign the separation package if my extended benefits were continued for X months, or, if there is not a willingness to do that, to increase the severance offered by an additional Y weeks' pay." If you are now willing to accept the original offer, you would rephrase to simply state, "I would like to resolve the matter and am willing to accept the original offer."

If the employer is not willing to negotiate, you may wish to retain a lawyer to negotiate on your behalf or to start a court action to provide further motivation for settlement. Hopefully, you have already sought legal advice regarding the fairness of the package offered.

THE SECOND ANSWER

Eileen Dooley

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Vice-president, VF Career Management, Calgary office

Your severance offer is likely null and void, as the expiry date has come and gone. That said, when reviewing a severance package, it is important to be well informed about what is reasonable to expect under the circumstances. For a complete picture, it is best to speak with a lawyer before you counter an offer or decide to hold out for an area that is important to you. Nobody likes to see money that was on the table taken off the table.

One of the benefits of being employed by a company is to have extended health benefits, seeing that prescription drugs, dental care, among other non-basic health services, can certainly add up. In most job-termination situations, extended benefits cease that day. Over the past few years, however, we have seen more companies extend these benefits beyond the termination date, but it is usually part of the original offer, not the negotiated offer. If you find your employment terminated, the benefits usually are in effect until the end of that day, so if you can, immediately go to see your doctor and/or dentist to get the maximum prescription your insurance will cover at one time (usually three months). Make the most of your extended benefits while you can – even until your last day of work.

Got a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that mine field? Let our Nine To Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to ninetofive@globeandmail.com

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