In Europe, Cash Eases The Pain Of Getting Fired

As some U.S. executives have learned the hard way recently, it's possible for a middle manager who loses his job to come away with little more than a pat on the head and a few weeks' pay. But that's not true in Western Europe. According to William M. Mercer Inc., a benefits consulting firm, relatively high termination benefits in most European countries are set by law and include such items as termination payments and full salary for a notice period during which severed employees are usually not required to show up for work.

Mercer calculates, for example, that a typical 45-year-old European middle manager, with 20 years of service and a salary of $50,000, would be entitled to termination benefits ranging from $94,000 to $130,000 in Belgium, Spain, and Italy--and from $25,000 to $38,000 in the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark. And that doesn't include extra benefits mandated for group dismissals or embodied in union contracts.

By contrast, Mercer estimates that a U.S. middle manager, earning $50,000 a year with 20 years of service, typically walks away with about 20 weeks severance pay or some $19,000. But the firm also notes that since payments are determined by individual corporate policy, such employees can be legally terminated with nothing more than a handshake.

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