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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 50161
Experience:  Qualified Employment Solicitor
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I recently left my company and now they have pulled out a contract

Customer Question

I recently left my company and now they have pulled out a contract out saying that i owe them University fees totalling £7000. i have the contract in which unfortunately i did sign but they never mentioned it until after i left the company. Also on various occasion leading up to me leaving my company i was told that the work was slowing down i would have to relocate further away from my home, this is the only reason that i left the company.
Please Help
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 3 years ago.
Ben Jones :

Hello, my name is ***** ***** it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. Firstly can you tell me hoe long you were employed there please.

JACUSTOMER-2t1panry- :

5 years

Ben Jones :

OK thank you, ***** ***** it with me. I am in a tribunal today so will prepare my advice during the day and get back to you this evening. There is no need to wait and you will receive an email when I have responded. Thank you

Ben Jones :

Apologies for the slight delay, I experienced some temporary connection issues earlier on. All seems to be resolved now so I can continue with my advice.

Employers can spend a considerable amount of money on training their employees, only to see them leave shortly afterwards. In order to ensure that the employer can provide an employee with training and that the employee does not take advantage of the situation by leaving soon afterwards, it is common practice to have a repayment provision in the contract of employment. Under it the training costs are deemed to constitute a loan to the employee, which becomes repayable if they leave their employment within a certain period after the training completes.

Whilst it is legal to have such clauses, 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 it 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 benefit.

The contract should also contain a sliding scale of repayment whereby the repayment amount reduces according to the length of time the employee remains with the employer after the training has been completed. For 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.

There are a couple of ways for the employer to try and recover these fees - by deducting them direct from the employee's wages or, if the employee has already left and paid up fully - by taking them to court. If you are not owed any more money by them then all they can do now is try to sue you to force you to repay them.

If the matter goes to court, it would be for the employer to show that the repayment clause was reasonably drafted and that the costs they are trying to recover are reasonable in the circumstances.

Unfortunately your reasons for leaving would not really be a defence to this as an employer is legally able to try and relocate employees in the event of work slowing down – this is a redundancy situation and would be entirely legal and can happen to any employer at any time, so the prospect of that happening is not a valid reason for you to leave and argue that the repayment clause is no longer valid. Saying that there is no guarantee that the employer will actually go as far as court and until that happens and they actually win, no one can force you to pay that money.

Hope this clarifies your position? If you could please let me know that would be great, thank you

Ben Jones :

Hello, I see you have accessed and read my answer to your query. Please let me know if this has answered your original question or if you need me to clarify anything else for you in relation to this? I just need to know whether to close the question or not? Thanks

JACUSTOMER-2t1panry- :

Attachment: 2015-01-20_153041_training_agreement_-.pdf

Full Size Image
Above is the training agreement.

JACUSTOMER-2t1panry- :

Just a few more questions to clarify, My previous company has got a debt recovery firm involved, is this legal. i was under the impression they would have to take me to court.

JACUSTOMER-2t1panry- :

Also you said about on the completeion of the course, i actually never completed the course due to lack of support from my company and other family issues, would this have an affect.

JACUSTOMER-2t1panry- :

Last one, if we were made to go on such a training course would this have an affect. as we were told we had to go on this course to get to the next stage in our development?

Ben Jones :

Hi, a debt recover company can be used at any point but unless they have a court judgment they are pretty toothless because all they can do is pester you and threaten you, hoping you will pay up. They cannot actually take enforcement action to recover the money until you have a court judgment against you.

I said completion of the course but that was a general term - the agreement covers the period after you either complete the course or you leave it, it also includes you leaving part way through it so the fact it was not completed does not make any difference.

Also if you were made to go it also would not matter as long as you agreed the agreement that is in place - often employers can ask employees to go on a course, rather than the employees volunteering to go on it so again that does not change the position here

Does this answer your follow up queries?