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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 50209
Experience:  Qualified Solicitor
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BACKGROUND: My employers have paid university tuition,

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My employers have paid for my university tuition, and a year ago I signed an agreement with them stating that "if [my] employment is terminated within 2 years of completing the course, will be required to repay the full value of the course to [the company]". There are no stipulations regarding a payment timeframe, method, or the amount of instalments in which it must be paid. The full value is £5030.
I have now resigned from the company, due to unsustainable working conditions. I informed my employers that I did not have the funds to clear the debt in a single payment, but that I was still happy to pay off the full sum. I proposed 3 separate payment plans, all of which were rejected. My initial proposal was to pay the sum off over the course of 1 year, in monthly or quarterly instalments.
Now, the company is insisting that it dock money from my remaining wages, while I work out my notice period. There are 2 clauses in my terms of employment that allow the company to deduct money from my wages, but the amount they are about to deduct will leave me unable to pay my rent or bills.
Specifically, they have demanded that the full amount of £5030 to be paid in 4 monthly payments: £515 (docked from wages), £515 (docked from wages), £1000 (paid by any alternative method), and £3000 (paid in any alternative method).
I have asked that no money be deducted from my wages, since this will stop me from meeting my living costs, and instead suggested that I make the payments on a credit card. So far this has been denied.
1. Although there is a clause in my contract stating my employers are allowed to deduct payment from my wages for debts, are they allowed to deduct so MUCH money that it prevents me from meeting my cost of living? My monthly wage is £1350, after tax. My monthly bills are £1150. Their proposed deductions mean I will only be paid £835.
2. Given that I have already agreed to pay back the money, provided alternative payment plans, and there is nothing in writing that stipulates the timeframe or manner in which I must pay back that money, am I legally required to agree to the terms of the 4-month agreement they have put forward?
Hello, my name is***** am a solicitor on this site and it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. Why specifically are you resigning and is the agreement for the repayment of the fees in your contract or was it a separate document?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi Ben, thanks very much for your help.

I am resigning because my working hours consistently exceed over 60 hours per week; my contract stipulates that I must work up to a maximum of 48 per week, and that if it becomes more than this, I have to raise it with my line manager for a solution. The response I received was "if you're not prepared to work as many hours as it takes, then I don't want you in my department, and you might as well leave". Aside from this, I am looking for a job with more money, and with less travel.

The agreement was signed as a separate document - it is a letter from the company to me outlining the terms, and my signature at the bottom is to indicate my agreement with the terms outlined.

Thank you for your response. I will review the relevant information and will get back to you as soon as possible. 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
Hello, can I please check if you have received my full response? I understand there have been some connection issues and some answers have not registered so I am following up to see if you were one of the affected customers? Many thanks
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi Ben,

Thanks for following up - no, I have not received your response. The last thing I received was:

"Thank you for your response. I will review the relevant information and will get back to you as soon as possible. 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"

If you could re-send it, I'd be grateful. Falling that, I could give you my personal e-mail address and you could send it there?



Hello Daniel, my apologies that you have not received the answer yet – I posted that a couple of hours after my last message and you appear to be the third customer affected by this issue. I have enclosed my answer below again for your consideration so hope it reaches you successfully this time round.
The starting point is that the employer is able to make the deductions from your wages if there is a contractual clause allowing them to do so. This could be something contained in your contract or a separate written agreement you have agreed to.
Next, if deductions are made, they should not take your pay for the relevant month below the National Minimum Wage. So you need to calculate the hours you have worked and the pay you have received and ensure it is at least above the NMW of £6.50ph (£6.70 as of 1 October).
There are some exceptions to this and some deductions do not count towards reducing your pay below the NMW and these are listed here:
You will see that training costs are not included anywhere so the employer should ensure these deductions do not take your pay below the NMW level. The fact that you are unable to meet your monthly expenses unfortunately is not a specific reason you can use to prevent the deductions, although you could use it to appeal to the employer so tey can consider your personal circumstances.
In terms of the repayment plan, you are not obliged to agree to the proposal for repayment amount/time, especially as nothing is stipulated in the agreement. However, that does not mean you can for example choose to pay £1 per month for 5030 months just because there is nothing detailing the repayment frequency. In the end something will need to be agreed between you and the employer and if you refuse their proposal they can then consider taking you to court instead. The court may agree with their proposal or they could decide that is unreasonable and give you some more breathing space. However, you never know what they will decide so you will always be taking a risk in that respect.
You could make it clear to the employer that you cannot accept their request and that if they are not willing to compromise, they will have to go to court, spend a lot more time and money on this and still have no guaranteed repayment as they had originally wished. So it is in the best interest of both parties to try and reach an amicable agreement to this rather than go down any formal legal route.
I trust this has answered your query. I would be grateful if you could please take a second to leave a positive rating (selecting 3, 4 or 5 starts at the top of the page). If for any reason you are unhappy with my response or if you need me to clarify anything before you go - please get back to me on here and I will assist further as best as I can. Thank you
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