March 19, 2009

In other words, just because employees at your company got decent severance packages in previous rounds of layoffs doesn't mean you can count on it for yourself:

Just a month before a fourth round of layoffs in December, Geonerco Management Inc. reduced its severance plan. Laid-off workers would get just two weeks of pay, rather than a package based on length of service.

"We needed to take every reasonable step to conserve cash to make it through this very tough time," says Greg Szymanski, director of human resources for the Seattle-based real-estate development firm.

Geonerco's policy change is part of a broader effort by some employers to curb severance costs. Some 20% of companies polled in December by Hewitt Associates Inc., a human-resources consulting firm in Lincolnshire, Ill., said they plan to change severance policies and 31% are considering such a move.

For the most part, employers that are downsizing severance packages say they are facing mounting financial pressures. Hewitt's survey found that 43% of firms planning severance-policy changes expect to reduce cash payments, while 21% intend to trim other benefits.

Similarly, a survey conducted earlier this year by Hay Group Inc., shows that 61% of employers planning or considering changes aim to do so by downgrading their offerings to laid-off workers.

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