“How can I best obtain a confirmation of my prior employment?”

Question: Dear Alan, I live in London and work for an American company. I resigned from my position effective December 31, 2010.

I am from a different country where we have a Health System available to those who are not working. To regain entry to the Health System, I must have a letter from a former employer certifying that I am no longer entitled to employer-provided health benefits, and the period of time I was participated in the employer-provided health program, and why I left.

I asked my employer for what seems to me to be a “basic statement” confirming my employment that summarized the relevant aspects of my employment, that is, period of employment, job title/position, reason for leaving (resignation.)

Human Resources provided me with a letter but without the basic information I need.

Is there a better way to obtain such a written confirmation of employment? Your reply would be very much appreciated. With thanks,

Sue
London, England

Answer: Dear Sue, in my experience, what you describe as a “basic statement” of the terms of your employment is almost exactly what most employers in the U.S. are almost always willing to give to employees or former employees. I am surprised that you are having this difficulty, and I cannot imagine why Human Resources at your company would be unwilling to provide it. In fact, I’m not sure I ever heard any client ask me the question you have posed.

No law requires such a letter be given. I know of no law in the U.S. that requires an employer to give out the kind of letter you seek, other than regarding special occupations, such as those (a) in the health field, (b) for registered securities representatives, and (c) for those with government security clearance. But I know of no law that forbids an employer from giving you such a statement, either.

The recipient of your letter may be unreasonably fearful. As you know, many people in the U.S. are concerned about lawsuits. Many times in my experience I have found Human Resources staff to be overly concerned about the possible legal ramifications of doing anything that might seem to them out of the ordinary. Some people are afraid that, if they do anything, they might get sued for it, or lose their jobs for doing someone a slight favor. It might therefore be helpful to assure the person you are sending your request to that you need this letter for healthcare, only, and will not use it for any other reason. 

The recipient may not have seen it as important. Also, you have made your request shortly before holiday time for so many people. It is possible your request seemed to be “non-urgent” and, so, it did not get the attention it deserved. Since it concerns your (and possibly your family’s) ability to get health care, it should get better attention. Make sure to mention the reason for your request.

The recipient may be upset that you resigned. Lastly, it is possible that the person to whom you submitted your request was not in the friendliest of moods when he or she received your request. Sadly, many people take resignations by employees as a kind of insult or personal humiliation. 

A letter directed to the company’s “top levels” might get the attention you need. I suggest that you send a pleasant, respectful letter about what you need, and why you need it, to the Chief Executive of the company, and the Head (or Director) of Human Resources. Though these people may not personally read your letter, their administrative staff will likely forward it to Human Resources staff for handling. Coming from “high above,” and being asked by “high authority” to address the matter may give Human Resources staff the “courage” to address your concern, and the motivation to do so. Very few requests from “on high” go unanswered.

I also suggest you draft the exact letter you need, making it simple for the letter’s recipient to give you exactly what you want. First, find out from your country’s Health Service exactly what information they need, and in what format. Second, prepare exactly what it is you want your employer to write, and present it to them. That makes it easier for them to comply with, and harder for them to make a mistake.

Please let me know how you do in your next attempt. I hope it goes better for you.

Thanks for writing in. Hope you’ll write in again. We especially like to hear from those in countries other than our own. We hope you will tell your friends about out blog.  

Best, Al Sklover

P.S.: Equip yourself with the Best We Offer, our “Ultimate Reference Package,” which contains “Letter to Discourage Negative References, Request of Positive Reference (with Samples) and Request for “Departure Statement” if Downsized or Laid Off. A 28% Savings over buying them separately. To obtain just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!   

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