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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
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I currently am studying for a chemistry degree part time and

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Hello, my name is***** currently am studying for a chemistry degree part time and I am in my final year now (due to graduate June/july 2018). My company has sponsored me throughout the time of the degree and they have paid the university fees in full. I started as an apprentice at 18 (in the same job but under a different company for 2 years until the company were confident enough to put me onto their own contract). Once I finished my apprenticeship at 20, they offered me a year to year rolling contract. Within the first year of my official company contract I was made to sign a document saying if I left the company within 2 years after I graduated, i would have to pay back the university fees; 100% payback if I left within the first 6 months, 75% 6-12 months, 50% 12-18 months and 25% 18-24 months.I had to sign this document which was fair enough, but at the time I was happy in my job. Since then, there has been multiple reasons which have made me want to leave as soon as possible after I have got my degree; this has included my own health. I am in no financial position to pay these fees back. I am currently working in an understaffed team and have been for almost 9 months; I believe this has lead to an increase in inflammation regarding my crohn's disease, simply due to the stress from the workload associated with my role. There has been many ethical issues within the company which have disagreed with and the company as a whole is not the same company which I joined in 2013.Is there anything I could do to avoid paying back these uni fees and leave the job as soon as I graduate? - Thanks

Hello, my name is***** am a qualified lawyer and I will be assisting you with your question today.

So have you, during the course of your employment, discussed the workload and impact it has had on your health, and if so, what was the outcome?

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
They knew we were understaffed the whole time, but it was only when I mentioned the health impact it had on me that they brought someone in straight away, my manager's boss's son joined our team until this week (probably about a month he's worked with us). He didn't have any relevant degree or science background and they didn't advertise a job out, they just strung a contract together and gave a relative a job just to keep me quiet. Now this person has found a relevant job we are back to being understaffed until someone else will come in for the role, but it is being advertised properly this time.Almost everyday mentioned staffing to my boss but nothing was done in those 9 months until I mentioned my health.
Customer: replied 1 month ago.
Almost everyday I mentioned staffing*

OK, thank you for your response. Leave it with me for now and I will review the relevant information and laws and get back to you at the earliest opportunity. There is no need to wait here as you will receive an email when I have responded. Also, please do not respond to this message as it will just push your question to the back of the queue and you may experience unnecessary delays. Thank you.

Many thanks for your patience. It is not uncommon for employers to spend money on training their workers, only to see them leave shortly afterwards and use the knowledge and skills from that training in another job. In order to ensure that the employer can provide an employee with training and that the employee does not take advantage of this by leaving soon afterwards, it is possible to have a repayment provision in their contract of employment. Under such a clause the training costs are deemed to amount to a loan to the employee, which becomes repayable if they leave their employment within a certain period of time after the training completes.

Whilst it is legal to have such clauses in place, employers must be cautious to ensure that the amount of costs they are trying to recover is a genuine pre-estimate of the damages which they have suffered as a result of the employee leaving early. In the event that it is not, such clauses could be considered a penalty against the employee, which would make them legally unenforceable. Therefore, if the employer has derived some benefit from the employee undertaking the training course during the fixed repayment period (e.g. where an employer has been able to charge customers more for an employee’s services by virtue of that training or qualification) then the amounts which may be recovered from the employee should be reduced to reflect that.

There are a couple of ways for the employer to try and recover these fees - by deducting them directly from the employee's wages or, if the employee has already left and been paid up fully - by taking them to court.

In terms of avoiding paying these, nothing actually guarantees that will happen. You can argue that the position you have been placed in is a case of potential constructive dismissal, meaning that they have breached your contract, making it all void. However, I would not say it is the strongest of cases in this situation,still nothing stopping you from raising it. They could still agree to something though, they could waive them or try to find a way around it and perhaps reduce them and agree on a repayment over time.

I trust this has answered your query. Please take a second to leave a positive rating by selecting 3, 4 or 5 stars above - this is an important part of our process and recognises the time I have spent assisting you. If you still need me to clarify anything else, please reply on here and I will assist as best as I can. Thank you

Hello, I see you have read my response to your query. Could you please let me know if it has answered your original question? You can either reply on here with a quick ‘Yes, thanks’, or select 3, 4 or 5 stars on this page. I can still answer follow up questions if needed to clarify anything for you. Many thanks

Ben Jones and other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 month ago.
My apologies I will submit a 5 star review now, thank you for your help but I may need a couple more follow up questions.Could I argue that the degree has made developed my understanding of the chemistry involved in the job and therefore made me a more competent employee as apposed to somebody who hasn't carried out a university degree?Also do you believe that: '100% payback if I left within the first 6 months, 75% 6-12 months, 50% 12-18 months and 25% 18-24 months' Is a genuine pre-estimate for their damages if I left? I reckon to train somebody up to competency within my role would take around 3 months training. 100% payback would see a figure of around £25,000. I earn £21,500 a year but that is only my wage now, they will replace me with another apprentice and they would be paying perhaps £15,000 (including initial uni fees) a year.

Hi there, you can raise the argument about becoming more competent a the job but really it would only be relevant if that has made the employer could have recouped some of the costs in the process, such as you being able to do work which they may have had to get someone more expensive to do, etc.

In terms of the scale for repayment, this can vary so there is not a set schedule that they must follow. As an example, 100% of the fees to be repaid if the employee leaves within 0-12 months after the training has finished, 50% if they leave 12-24 months after, 25% if they leave 24 - 36 months after has been deemed reasonable but different schedules can work too. This is not a legal requirement but can make the clause more reasonable and easier to enforce. Conversely if the scale is unreasonable it can make it more difficult

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
Okay, thank you for your help.

you are welcome and all the best