MANILA -- If the approval of the National Wages and Productivity Commission is published in a newspaper of general circulation today as planned, in 15 days or on Nov. 27, minimum wage workers in the National Capital Region will receive a P25 increase in their daily salary. This will bring up their take home pay to P537, including a P10 adjustment in the cost of living allowance.
Now while this can be seen as welcome news next to the rising prices of goods and services and so close to the holidays, there is a not-so-welcome flip side to it. Some economists argue that bad news predictably follow wage increases, that is, with the cost of doing business rising, expect some jobs to disappear. It’s natural for businesses of any size – small, medium, large – to protect their bottom line, and the adjustment in minimum wage could mean cutting back on jobs and letting some of their employees go.
But we already have some 9.8 million Filipinos with no jobs, at least according to the Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey released over the weekend. Of this number, nearly half or 4.1 million were retrenched. Will you survive if this happens to you?
It’s a reality we should all prepare for, that at some point in our working life, we may find ourselves between jobs. Sometimes leaving a job could be your decision. Maybe the commute has become too stressful, or you don’t find the work satisfying, or you just don’t like your boss. Or sometimes the decision is not yours to make. Your employer could be downsizing, or may not find your work up to par, or your boss simply doesn’t like you.
If it was your decision, you have the advantage of making arrangements in advance like lining up another work or ensuring that you have enough savings to tide you over. But if you were blindsided, finding yourself out of a job can be traumatic, especially when you have no emergency fund to fall back on.
Let’s assume you found yourself at the receiving end of the dreaded two words: "You’re Fired." What can you do to protect yourself and your family until you get a new job? Here are some steps you can consider.
REVIEW YOUR EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT
It can be a losing battle to hold on to a job when a company has decided to let you go. That’s because by the time you’re told, they’ve done their homework and have established a strong legal position. It still doesn’t hurt to know what you are entitled to (severance pay, tax shields, 30-day notice, converting unused leaves to cash) and what recourse you have (are you a Union member and can they negotiate for you?).
UNDERSTAND YOUR COMPANY'S POLICIES AND BENEFITS
If your employment contract is silent on some points, go to the manual of employee policies and benefits and scan for what opportunities may be available to you. If you have outstanding loans, will they allow a payment plan instead of demanding full payment on your last day or eating up your final pay? Look for benefits that you can request to be included in your severance package.
ASK FOR HELP
It’s natural to think of the employer letting you go as the "enemy," but if you don’t ask, you’ll never know what assistance they can give. Maybe their hands are tied and to save the company, they truly need to let some jobs go. But they could be offering placement services in affiliate companies, or partner firms. Some even offer help with refreshing your resume and free training for new skills – and these you should consider taking up.
REVIEW YOUR SAVINGS AND SET A BUDGET FOR THE NEXT 90 TO 120 DAYS
It could take weeks to find another job if you’re lucky, but most take months to get another one. A good rule of thumb is to secure enough cash to cover your expenses for the next three to six months (nine months is better but that could be a stretch for most people). Check your savings how much you have and plan a budget that will cover only essentials. Focus on needs this time, and postpone the wants until you have another source of steady income. Note that in an economic downturn, it can take even longer than usual to land a job so watch what you spend.
TALK TO YOUR CREDITORS
If you have credit card bills, car or home loans, do this right away. This will be tough but better to contact them ahead and let them know your situation than go into hiding. Try to negotiate postponing payments for a few months until you get back on your feet, or a payment plan with lower or no interest. You may be surprised at how accommodating creditors can be. Ultimately, they want to be paid and they know only you can make that happen.
LIVE BELOW YOUR MEANS
This is the time to tighten belts. Do not rack up credit card debt. Talk to your family to get their support so you won’t feel all alone in this. Maybe they have savings they can add to the family pool until you find a new job. Or one of them can find part-time work in the interim. The more they realize your financial situation, the easier it will be for them to assist you from small things like skipping meals in a restaurant to bigger things like no expensive vacations in the near term.
LOOK AHEAD AND GET STARTED ON YOUR FUTURE
It can be tempting to shrink back and wallow in self-pity. But there are many reasons an employee is let go, and it’s not always a reflection of your work or work ethic. Most companies follow the last-in, first-out policy so even if you’ve been a great colleague, tenure will trump that. Stay positive instead, as your prospective employers will pick up on this. Do not speak ill of your past employer as that will reflect poorly on you.
If this should happen to you, note that you are not necessarily alone (million others are in the same boat) nor in bad company. Remember Steve Jobs? The late Apple founder who was responsible for all those computers, laptops, tablets and mobile phones millions are using today? He was fired too (and later rehired).
Even Elon Musk was recently forced to step down as chairman of Tesla, the pioneering automotive and energy company based in the US. It can happen to anyone, but how you respond and rise to the occasion? That’s all on you.