Repayment of training fees

(25 Posts)
Spanglecrab Tue 19-Jan-16 14:58:26

I work in an industry that requires a professional qualification. This has to be renewed every five years.

I had always been self employed until taking a full time position in October 2012. I joined the business with an up to date certificate and had used this while sub contracting at the company during the previous eight months.

In November 2013 the company informed me that they wanted my to renew my certification even though it had approximately 5 months to run. It was explained that they wished to mothball the training and assessment centre to save costs. At this time they also asked me to sign a form agreeing to repay tearing costs of £800 should I leave within two years of completing the training.

I didn't want to sign the form as at the time I wasn't enjoying the work and also a large part of the cost was a refresher course prior to assessment which I have never needed the previous four occasions (20 years experience in my sector)

I signed eventually after being told by my manager that it is never enforced anyway so I had nothing to lose.

I left the company in September 2014 as my DW was due to give birth to twins and we had purchased a larger house which needed major renovation.

As predicted by my manager I heard nothing about the training fees.

I rejoined the company in March of last year, and have had no problems until I arrived home last night to find a letter signed by the hr director saying that the full amount would be payable over the next 25 weeks.

The sum of money is not a problem, I earns more in one day last week. (It was a particularly good day) It's a point of principle. Surely an agreement made in the previous period of employment is not valid as I signed a new contract and every other potential benefit has been reset.

Also they had the sole benefit of me being qualified at my own expense. If they were looking to protect their investment then they have already surpassed the two year term?

I am prepared to resign over this. I get offers of work elsewhere quite regularly and would have no trouble finding a position on similar terms.

I have approached my manager but it seems that the amount was uncovered in an audit and a finance director set the wheels in motion. So he may not feel like backing down. I am however not replaceable at this time of year if I walked.

Are the company within their rights and would I be silly to push this point?

Thank you if you stuck with me this far! It's not the most interesting thread!

LemonBreeland Tue 19-Jan-16 15:02:36

I think it is quite interesting actually. I'm afraid I have no advice or knowledge in this area, but it seems dodgy to me that they would ask for it back when you are back as a new employee.

Would they have chased you for it if you didn't work for them?

AveEldon Tue 19-Jan-16 15:06:25

Definitely dispute it
You are on a new contract
Surely they are benefiting from your qualification now anyway!

Spanglecrab Tue 19-Jan-16 15:08:46

If an audit took place then I guess that's feasible. Perhaps the auditors see me as a soft target as it's easier to withhold money owes than chase someone who would likely ignore them.

I see the point of fees being reimbursed but seeing as this type of training is ongoing you would think it's budgeted for.

jollyjester Tue 19-Jan-16 15:12:43

In the new contact is there a clause about previous employment?

I only ask as it normally would state that no prior employment counts towards current employment.

Tricky one (I'm currently trying to out a similar clause into our company contracts but if they do leave it will be enforced!)

Spanglecrab Tue 19-Jan-16 15:15:57

It seems like my line manager is in a panic thinking I'm leaving. I've been told not to say anything and "he will sort it" maybe he reads mumsnet?

Spanglecrab Tue 19-Jan-16 15:17:56

I will check my contract but I have a feeling it will say that they reserve the right to reclaim money and that the form I signed forms a contract.

LittleBearPad Tue 19-Jan-16 15:24:46

The new contract isn't relevant though is it? The agreement was made in your old contract and enforceable under that contract.

Sorry to nitpick, i find it an interesting question. I think they are being ridiculous to enforce the payment so long after the event. There must be a time limit surely to such things, it was almost 18 months ago after all.

Can you negotiate a bonus payment of the same amount wink if your manager is so keen to keep you. Problem is that now it's been flagged by an audit the finance team are likely to want it tidied up.

Spanglecrab Tue 19-Jan-16 15:34:32

Thank you littlebear. I agree that it's nothing to do with this term of employment. In this case if think that I will speak to HR and express that I don't agree with them withholding wages. I will suggest that they invoice me. I will then ignore the invoice.

I am willing to have this fight as mentioned before - not on the amount of money but the principle. Therefore a bonus of the same amount will not cut it either.

flowery Tue 19-Jan-16 16:19:00

"Surely an agreement made in the previous period of employment is not valid as I signed a new contract and every other potential benefit has been reset."

No, an agreement made in previous employment is just as valid as it would be had you not happened to go back to the same employer at a later date. You signed agreeing to repay the money and you haven't done so. I know they haven't asked for it until recently but it's not that the initial agreement is invalid. It's as valid as it would be if you were working elsewhere now. Validity fine, enforceability more likely to be the problem.

The questions are whether they are acting reasonably in pursuing it so long after the event (I'd say no), and also whether any clause in your current contract making provision for withholding wages in the event of monies being owed is limited to monies recently owed, or owed in this particular employment (I suspect it's probably wider than that).

Spanglecrab Tue 19-Jan-16 18:48:48

Ok a quick update. The feedback I'm getting is that they are entitled to withhold money from my wages and they intend to do so as the original agreement set a specific period of time before leaving. I left and the fact I came back is irrelevant.

They don't seem to see that they are getting value for their investment through the fact that I am working for the company within the five year period.

My manager feels that the situation is ridiculous and that going after the Money is punitive for the act of leaving rather than about getting value from their investment.

Given that I didn't work for a competitor during my period away and that I was caring for our newborn twins I am taking this quite personally.

Thank you to all those who have helped so far. I'd be interested in any other opinions. I will continue to update to anyone interested in the outcome.

TheWomanInTheWall Tue 19-Jan-16 18:55:35

So in fact you were out if employment with them for six months of the past 2.25 years?0

TheWomanInTheWall Tue 19-Jan-16 18:57:18

Do you have anything in writing from your manager re the expectation to waive it? Or will he/she "testify" that's what they told you?

TheWomanInTheWall Tue 19-Jan-16 18:59:05

Resigning might not help as they could with old the amount in full from your final pay.

TheWomanInTheWall Tue 19-Jan-16 19:00:30

It's easy to be wise after the event. But you were in a good position last march to specifically exclude this from your new contract...

flowery Tue 19-Jan-16 19:18:53

Wanting to punish you personally for leaving seems a most unlikely motivator for this. Far more likely that an audit has uncovered various outstanding sums owing and the finance team are therefore having a crackdown/tidy up.

Has your manager made his/her objections clear to the relevant decision maker?

Spanglecrab Tue 19-Jan-16 19:27:03

TheWomanInTheWall that's about right 6 months. The manager that got me to sign was a weak manager, he would have said anything to get me to sign rather than addressing the concerns I raised at the time. He is no longer with the company - I'm sorry for not making this clearer.

My issue isn't the amount. I would be just as annoyed if it was 25 quid. If I resign and they take the money so be it. It's a point of principle.

To be honest at the time I rejoined I hadn't given any thought to it. In fact I don't think I gave it more than a few moments thought from the time I signed the form in 2013 until I received the letter the other night.

Spanglecrab Tue 19-Jan-16 19:30:56

flowery you are probably right. I don't get involved in that side of the business.

They may well be going after everyone who left within that two year period.

flowery Tue 19-Jan-16 20:19:41

Can I ask what is the principle you feel so strongly about that you are prepared to resign in protest? At the time of the training you accepted their right to recover the money if you left within two years. You did leave within two years, so surely the only principle is to do with how reasonable it is of them not to reclaim it in a timely manner?

I agree the delay isn't especially reasonable and doesn't demonstrate good, organised financial practice. But is trying to reclaim money you do technically owe them really that awful that you'd resign in protest? I don't know, just seems a tad melodramatic for the sake of £800 that you do in fact owe them, that's all.

If they make the deduction your best bet is arguing that enforcing it this late isn't reasonable.

Spanglecrab Tue 19-Jan-16 21:29:49

It may seem melodramatic from my posts. It's not a normal industry or job I guess. People with my skills are in high demand particularly at this time of year. The fact that the investment in training that they made has not been in vain means that chasing me for the money feels hugely disrespectful.

They know that I am unhappy for the reasons mentioned so the ball is in their court.

Spanglecrab Wed 20-Jan-16 14:25:52

Final update: they backed down. I had an email this morning stating that as the circumstances were exceptional they would cancel the fee as long as I stayed so that the service given totalled two years.

Reading the thread from start to finish I've realised I sound a bit highly strung. I promise I'm not in fact mostly the opposite!

Thanks so much for the input!

flowery Wed 20-Jan-16 18:13:30

Excellent, great result!

It's always easier to be measured and pragmatic when you're not personally involved. I'm an extremely principled person myself and can quite imagine coming across a bit highly strung where I perceive an injustice against myself. So I empathise!

LittleBearPad Thu 21-Jan-16 00:04:02

Good news!

KiwiJude Thu 21-Jan-16 20:32:43

Great update Spangle smile

HermioneWeasley Thu 21-Jan-16 21:24:58

Great result. Company sound bonkers.

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