Many thanks for your patience, it is appreciated. I am now pleased to be able to provide further assistance with your query. First of all, I am sorry to hear about the issues brought up by this. It must be a frustrating situation to be going through.
It is entirely normal to start the repayment timeline from when the training is complete so to use an argument that you were on cheaper wages before finishing is unlikely to get you very far.
As to the general legal position, Employers often spend money on providing training for their workers, only for them to leave before the employer has derived sufficient benefits from that investment. The workers then go and use the knowledge and skills from such training in another job, at their original employer’s expense. To protect their interests, employers can introduce a repayment provision in their contract of employment. Under such a clause the training costs are considered 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 clause, which would make them legally unenforceable.
Ideally, 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. This is not a legal requirement but can make the clause more reasonable and easier to enforce.
When it comes to tax, if you know for certain that the employer has managed to recover some of the total costs of the course, they should not charge you for these as they will then be making a profit for something they had already recovered.
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.
Any deductions from the employee's wages can only lawfully take place if there was a clear written agreement by the employee allowing the employer to do this, such as a contractual clause or a separate written agreement. In the absence of such an agreement the deduction will likely be unlawful and can be recovered.
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 and not extravagant. It is important to remember that the employer has the legal right to make a claim if they feel they have a case to pursue but that only a court can make a decision on the final outcome by examining the finer details of the situation.