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.
The contract should also ideally 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. Just 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. This is not a legal requirement but can make the clause more reasonable and easier to enforce.
In your case the time for repayment was cited as being within a ‘reasonable time’. No one knows exactly what that is but it is highly unlikely that after 4 years the clause would still be valid, especially as staying to work for 4 years after training is unlikely to be classified as an unreasonable short time. Together with the fact that it was just an arbitrary period of validity, it would make this a rather difficult clause to enforce now.
If the matter goes to court, it would be for the employer to show that the repayment clause was fair and that the costs they are trying to recover are reasonable in the circumstances or they are just extravagant and as such – non-recoverable. In the end only a court can make a decision by examining the finer details of the situation but as mentioned, it will be difficult for them to argue successfully.
As to the contract, it can be offered to the stylist but they do not have to accept it. So they cannot be forced to change contracts in that way if they are not happy to accept these new terms.
Does this answer your query?