Termination? What now?

Needless to say: Being laid off is an extremely unpleasant experience. In addition to the personal grievance, there is uncertainty about the future and a kind of helplessness about how to deal with the dismissal. 

Against the personal grievance, it helps to realize that in the vast majority of cases it is not personally against you. 

In this article I will explain what you can do to counteract the feeling of helplessness.


Before the personnel interview

Do not let yourself be thrown off by an invitation to a personnel interview. Ask what the interview is going to be about and how you can prepare yourself.

If there is a works council in your company, talk to a works council member. If the interview concerns your future with the company, you have the right to be accompanied by a member of the works council. Make use of this right.


Remain calm

So you have received notice of termination. The letter of termination was handed to you at work without many words or during a one-on-one meeting with your supervisor:  Get through your workday as best you can. Resist the temptation to make things worse by throwing a tantrum. Resist the urge to justify yourself.


Remain polite

In the situation you are in now, there is little you can do. Anger and despair do not make good advisors. The following responses to your employer are advisable and sufficient:

“I will seek counsel.”

“I will sleep on it for a night” 


Say “no” 

Do not sign anything hastily.

Of all the words you could say right now, one is particularly dangerous:


Your employer has just delivered his message. How he proceeds with his plan depends on how you respond. Maybe he presents you with a termination agreement. Maybe he offers you a severance package. Maybe he releases you from work. He will be pleased if you accept the termination and refrain from taking legal action. Couldn’t you at least confirm to him that you have received the notice of termination? To all these offers and questions, your answer is simply:


Have the courage to say “no.” Ask for time to think it over. Explain that you want to seek legal advice. Let them know if you don’t understand something. Never say “yes” to something you don’t fully understand. 

Don’t allow yourself to be pressured. Nothing your employer is offering you now is so urgent that you won’t be able to agree to it tomorrow.


Seek advice

Use the cooling-off period you’ve asked for to seek help and make sure you get advice. Talk to a works council, contact me.

You are not alone. Together we will find out what is best for you in this situation and develop a strategy. If your employer has offered you a termination agreement, I will review it to see if the offer is fair or if we can get more out of it. I check whether the dismissal is effective or whether an action for protection against dismissal has a chance of success.

If you want to take legal action against the dismissal, now is the right time to set the course for successful dismissal protection proceedings.


Register as a job seeker and as unemployed

Take precautions. From the time you receive notice of termination, you have three days to register with the Federal Employment Agency as a job seeker. Only if your notice period is longer than three months, you have until three months before your employment ends. You can complete the job-seeker registration online. 

You must also register as unemployed on the first day of unemployment at the latest. You can only register for unemployment in person on site at the Federal Employment Agency – you do not need an appointment for this.

The earlier you file your application for unemployment benefits, the faster it can be processed. You can apply for unemployment benefits online on the website of the Federal Employment Agency.


Deadline for filing an action: 3 weeks

If you do not file an action for protection against dismissal, the dismissal will be considered legal after three weeks, without mattering whether it actually is legal. Your employer then no longer has any reason to offer you severance pay, release you or otherwise negotiate anything in your favor. This is why it is important to file an action for protection against dismissal, even if you would generally be fine with it ending your employment relationship.


Ask for an interim reference letter

Request an interim reference letter (Zwischenzeugnis) from your employer. The interim reference letter will help you with your search for a new job.

In the current situation of uncertainty, it is also in the interest of your employer to issue you with a benevolent reference. If the relationship with your employer should deteriorate, for example because you have filed an action against dismissal, the employer is bound by the reference and cannot deviate without reason in the final reference to which you are entitled after termination of the employment relationship.


Look ahead.

If you have decided to file an action for protection against dismissal, the fight for your job begins. If you are successful with your lawsuit, the labor court will determine that the termination by your employer was invalid and your employment relationship will continue.

However, it is not advisable to rely solely on the fact that you will keep your job. The vast majority of proceedings for protection against dismissal (about 80% in 2019) end with a settlement, which generally ends the employment relationship in return for severance pay. So even if the proceedings before the labor court go very well, it is still likely that the employment relationship will come to an end with the termination.

So there will be no way around updating your resume and writing applications. Look ahead and try to see the upcoming career change as an opportunity for you – even if it seems difficult at the moment.