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I was told by the head of my department that I would be laid off in approximately a month. This was not surprising; the company has been struggling for a long time. I was asked to keep it secret from other employees, which is also not surprising because I think the last round of layoffs brought the company below the number of employees where 30 or 60 days notice is required by law.

But surely HR knows about it, right? So a week later, I asked HR to provide me with information about COBRA insurance and unemployment benefits. HR was confused because they were not aware of any planned layoffs.

I'm concerned that something shady is going on, but I don't think they're specifically trying to get rid of me personally because they immediately asked if I'd be willing to continue working as a contractor, which they've done in the past with laid off employees.

What could be a reason why HR is not aware of this? How could I proceed with this so my health insurance is not affected in between jobs?

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    I'm going to rephrase your questions as they are currently off-topic. – DarkCygnus Jan 11 at 23:27
  • Did your department head use the exact phrase "laid off" (or "layoff")? Or did they say something else like "we'll have to let you go" or "we'll no longer need your service" or something other than "layoff"? – shoover Jan 12 at 3:27
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    HR may very well be aware of this, but they were likely told not to talk about and pretend they don't know anything (and gaslight you) if asked. Many orgs tend to keep layoffs secret until they occur. HR personalities, with few exceptions, will always obey instructions even at the expense of the well-being of employees. FWIW, you have a good boss, he warned you in advance. It's too late now, but you could probably have asked him about unemployment benefits (he could have asked HR himself and relay the info to you). – teego1967 Jan 12 at 13:04
  • @shoover They said something to the effect of, "there's another wave of layoffs coming." – The Merry Misanthrope Jan 12 at 15:24
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I was told by the head of my department that I would be laid off in approximately month.

I suggest you tell this person (head of department) what you experienced, that you asked HR for COBRA and they seem to be unaware of the layoff, and you wish to know how to proceed.

In many situations, like this one, it's better to ask than to assume that something fishy is going on. Things could be different in your company, or this layoff may be unique in its way, so best to ask.

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  • If my department head lied to me, shouldn't I leave it up to HR to probe without tipping off my department head that I know? – The Merry Misanthrope Jan 11 at 23:30
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    Your department head told you about the layoff, so they already know. This could be a matter of the head not telling HR yet of the layoffs... a bit unlikely that your head lied to you about you going to be fired... Best not to assume and ask instead – DarkCygnus Jan 11 at 23:49
  • What I mean is, my department head doesn't know that I know that something fishy is going on. At my company, layoff decisions are made by the board and HR breaks the news to the department heads. I didn't mention that because I thought it was universal. – The Merry Misanthrope Jan 12 at 0:10
  • @JoeStrazzere Perhaps that should be an answer or part of this one. I assumed it was not normal for HR to not be aware of a layoff. – The Merry Misanthrope Jan 12 at 1:51
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    @TheMerryMisanthrope Joe is saying what I said in the answer and in comments: don't assume, ask :) – DarkCygnus Jan 12 at 2:21
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How could I proceed with this so my health insurance is not affected in between jobs?

COBRA ensures that you can continue your health insurance between jobs if you choose that path, rather than purchasing your own ACA plan.

I asked HR to provide me with information about COBRA insurance and unemployment benefits.

You don't need HR for this yet. When and if you are laid off, you'll get a separation packet that will explain the details as required by law.

see: https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/health-plans/cobra

HR doesn't need to provide information about unemployment benefits. Call your state's Department of Unemployment Assistance.

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What could be a reason why HR is not aware of this?

Simple. HR could be one of the layoffs. The smaller the company gets the smaller the HR department needs to be.

It is also possible that the planning of potential layoffs is just planning. They could be looking at what might happen if the health crisis continues, or if they don't meet the sales numbers for the quarter. They are unsure of the number of layoffs, let alone the specific people.

How could I proceed with this so my health insurance is not affected in between jobs?

Since you know about COBRA, then you have started to understand a key issue. You also might look at what when coverage ends when you are laid off. I know that some companies end your coverage on your last day of work, others will keep it in force to the end of the month. Find out what your company does. Also understand what deadlines would apply to your Flexible spending accounts, or you Health savings account. Misunderstanding the deadlines could cost you money.

I asked HR to provide me with information about COBRA insurance and unemployment benefits.

You also asked about Unemployment benefits. You should also look at any employment documents that you have that would talk about severance payments. Also look at what they do with any balances you have for vacation, sick, or PTO. Some give you a lump sum, some treat them as extra paychecks after your last day of work, some have a maximum amount they will pay.

Some companies will provide job search assistance after the layoff notice. It can be as simple as a resume review, other provide much more. Try to see what they did in the past layoffs.

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  • HR is currently a single person who also helps out in other departments. – The Merry Misanthrope Jan 12 at 15:26

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