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Seb Anthony

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Training Agreements


I joined a company two and a half years ago as a trainee quantity surveyor and singed a training agreement to do a HNC in civil engineering which I have now completed. I am now on the 3rd year of a degree in Commercial Management.  
When I started my job I was in an office with 4 other members of my team all helping train me and I enjoyed the job. But back in June I was forced to move to an office where I was working on my own with nobody on my team or anyone who done the same job as me within 100 miles. So basically I am a trainee with nobody training me except a uni course that has so little relevance to my job. My line manager works 100miles away and I haven’t seen him in 6 months with an occasional phone call for him to give me work. The work that I am given is the work of a trainee receptionist not the work of a QS.
I want to leave my job so badly but will not be able to pay back the fees. Is there anyway I can get around this? Has my employer stuck to their part of the contract? Does the original training agreement cover my Degree?
I have not got a copy of the training agreement and my line manager is impossible to get hold of let alone getting something from him.
Please can somebody help I am pretty desperate.
Mitch Newhouse

7 Responses

  1. Thoughts ….

    Mitch, I sense your despair and frustration with this situation, and I’m sorry to hear about the difficulties you face.  Whilst as an outsider it’s rather hard to give any hard and fast answers let’s think about how you can try to get things on a firmer footing. 

    Firstly, my personal experience of training agreements relates only to payment of course fees and the fee clawback arrangements should an individual leave the company within a specified period after completing their training (usually 2 years).  Given the nature of your job role this training agreement to which you refer may have other elements included and as someone who lacks familiarity with your industry it’s hard to say if your employer has adhered to the terms of this contract.  At a minimum they will most probably have paid your course fees and will expect you to repay something towards those fees but with a sliding scale over a specified period. 

    Secondly, it strikes me this training agreement relates only to the HNC course. If I have understood your thread correctly the Commercial Management degree course doesn’t appear to be related to your job (if that’s the case I wonder why you’re doing the course??) and therefore it is unlikely the training agreement covers this degree.  Again, being an outsider it’s hard to make a definite judgement on this and I would urge you to double check this as a precaution.  Have you got proof of payment for this degree course?  Can you check your bank statements to see if the payment came from your account? 

    Thirdly, do you have an HR department (or similar)?  I’d be inclined to speak to them directly about getting a copy of the training agreement rather than your manager.  It’s also worth checking your handbook and employment contract for any guidelines on education support policies for your employer.

    Fourth, have a think about the training which you’re not receiving, identify any holes or shortfalls and think about what needs to be done to address this.  When is your next appraisal due?  If you have practical ideas of your own your manager might be a little more amenable to plugging your training gap.  As for leaving your job only you can make that decision and personally I wouldn’t do it without any cast iron guarantees of work to fall back on to keep the pennies rolling in.  Again, my knowledge of your industry is limited but I suspect the economic climate is not ideal for a job change especially as you’re still a trainee.  Whilst I totally empathise with the petty nature of the tasks you’re being given I also suspect a lot of mucking in is required from everyone just to keep the business ticking over.  Have a think about ways of making your job more interesting or adding value to the business (and hopefully increasing your knowledge/skills) and put the ideas to your manager. 


    Good luck!

  2. Is there another way out?


    I am not sure if you have another job lined up? If so, then perhaps you could approach your hiring company to pay the college fees as part of your package?

    If you leave your current company ‘by mutual agreement’ or if they make you redundent then usually there is no onus on you to pay back the sponsorship money. Is the company likely to let you go?

    It seems to me that you have some valid gripes with the changes that have happened to you. As per the other commentator, I would raise your concerns with your line manager – even if it is not done as a part of your performance review. Perhaps things may change at work if you do complain. If you are working towards ‘chartered’ status does the company not have an obligation to provide you with the correct training and support? Worth contacting the Chartered Institute of Surveyors to find out where you stand.

    In a previous company I used to be responsible for arranging the sponsorship – letter and funds transfer – for the business when it wanted to sponsor individuals to carry out further studies. I used a standard sponsorship letter – if an individual leaves during the duration of the course then the full course fees had to be paid back. If the individual left up to 2 years after completing their studies then a sliding scale of repayment would be applied. 

    I had an incident similar to yours when someone resigned. I went to the compay lawyer to see what I could claw back and was effectively told that the sponsorship agreement was meaningless and the company could not claw back any costs incurred. The argument the lawyer used was that if the company had paid for an individual to attend training on ‘presentation skills’ or some such course then it could not reasonably ask that individual to pay back these costs. Thus, the company could not ask individuals to pay back sponsorship costs. 

    That was 6 years ago and things may be different now! My best advice – go seek some free legal advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau before you take any action.

  3. Training agreement


    This sounds like a miserable arrangement. What a shame that you have been left like this. Claire has offered some good advice so I won’t repeat that. I would just add this sometimes comes down to the construction of the agreement (and whether the one you signed relates to the degree). Most are not enforcable in my experience but in some instances money can be clawed back, possibly from any final salary, so beware. You would need legal advice to be certain. I am sure that you feel let down but if you did sign an agreement (covering the degree) then the proper course would be to negotiate easy terms for repayment and/or part repayment only. If you have a signed agreement that you simply do not honour, whatever the legal position, the company may mention this in any reference provided to a potential future employer.

    Before looking for other jobs, perhaps your chat with HR and/or your line manager might mitigate if not resolve some of the isolation and job role issues. If that doesn’t work then at least you can say you have done your bit before looking elsewhere.

    Best of luck


  4. Check Carefully…the Agreement May Stand

    I work in an organisation where we fund certain types of study and qualifications, operating a claw-back clause if an employee leaves within a certain time frame.  This applies whether he or she passes or fails, completes or doesn’t complete the course.   It’s something that is in our handbook and policies; letters are given to employees to confirm arrangements when they sign up for the study.    The wording etc. has been checked out from a legal perspective (yes, an employment law specialist) and we do enforce it when people leave.   It’s an agreement everyone understands when they get into their study – it is intended to help us get some benefit from the study for a period afterwards when we invest so much into our employees.

    A previous employer of mine (several years ago!) even took an employee to court for fees paid towards a post-graduate degree on what they felt was a ‘point of principle’…. so yes, it can and does happen.

    I would strongly recommend, like the others here, that you get some advice and try and dig out the terms of your learning agreement.  It does sound like you have a reasonable case but it will all depend on the approach of your employer and the agreement signed.    Bigger than the study costs issue for me, reading what you’ve said, is the problems you are having in general with your job and the contact with your line manager.  It doesn’t sound a great arrangement…

    Good luck and I hope it works out well for you.

  5. without the agreement

    Without the agreement it would be difficult to advise you.

    If it is a standard one then you may be able to get out of it due to the changes in your job role etc… but you need a copy of the agreement.

    Without the agreement we are all clutching at straws and making assumptions based on what we know from our experience.  This comes with it’s own issues not least being each of us may have a different agreement in place.

    Sorry I can’t be of further help but you need that agreement before you do anything.

  6. Thanks

    Thanks to all that responded.

    I contacted my HR department today. They told me that I have not signed an agreement and I needed to do it immediately and send it back.

    If I don’t sign the agreement will I have to pay the money back? As I see it this is very good news for me and I can get out of the job scot free. Am I correct?


  7. Not that cut and dried …

    Mitch, although you’ve not signed the agreement I wouldn’t take it as a given that you’re ‘absolved’ from any clawback.  Your company can argue that you’ve received the training and presumably they discussed the implications of receiving this training with you in advance.  I’d still get some legal advice on this as they could still turn pretty nasty even without your signature. 


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