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Ex-employer demanding money for wages for attending course they didn't pay for

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  • Ex-employer demanding money for wages for attending course they didn't pay for

    Really hoping someone can help me with this as I am really stressed about it...
    I was in a job for around ten months based in Scotland which - during that time, I was asked to go on two courses - both were neccessary for me to achieve a qualification to work at the level required by my employers. I was sent on a day release course for one day a week and my employers paid my usual wage on this day. The company were fully funded by the government for the courses and did not require to pay for course costs. I did not request expenses even though my travel time was up to four hours a day and it cost £20 travel for that day. I was very consciencious and worked through lunches, breaks and in 30mins early nearly everyday to get the work done.
    It became clear that I was not getting the on the job training I required and there were significant issues related to safe practice and client safety I brought up with management, however nothing was done. My employers also docked me annual leave to attend a GP appointment when others were given time off, paid. The reason given was I lived further away.
    When I commenced work, i was given a contract - there is nil in the contract re repayment of course costs but it also covers a handbook which I can not remember being given and wrongly assumed at the time that the contract was the handbook as it was lengthy. I was given letters prior to commencing training stating I would need to pay back the cost of the training if I left, however I felt this was not applicable as they hadn't paid for the training in the first place - I did not sign the letters, they were given to me signed by management.
    My employers were unhappy when I handed in my notice but I went over my concerns to management.
    I was asked if I would be interested in part time work till my new employment commenced and I was happy to help out for a few days.
    I asked by email as to dates and for confirmaiton that I would be paid as per prior employment.
    I was then sent a letter stating they wished payment for one of the courses and for 200 hours of day release study leave. I replied to state that I had the letters of funding and they had not paid for either course and this appeared to be a penalty as the cost for wages reclaimed would be around £2000. They contacted me to state they had made an error and suddenly found the letter stating they had funding but wished repayment of wages for the days sent on study leave. They also gave me the option of working for nothing for 200 hours to pay it off.
    I'm at a loss here. They state it is in the handbook which I have never seen but is covered by my signature on the contract. They state the letter sent prior to starting the course re repayment was an agreement but is only signed by them and is a statement. I asked for a copy of the handbook and It states:
    "The company has the right to deduct training course costs in the event that you leave post within 12 months of completing a training course which has been funded by the company".
    So, they didn't pay for the course but they want me to repay my wages of over £2000 for attending? The course cost the government £800 and I continuing it in my new employment.
    I am ill with worry as I have had a terrible time there with stress and it appears they are hellbent in trying to get money from me. I would not be able to defend this with a solicitor as I would not be able to afford it. Apologies for long post. Any advice is more than welcome. x
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  • Ula
    Glad to hear the solicitor thinks the same as I do that they are just "trying it on" and bullying you into paying. Please do come back and let us know the outcome which I really hope will be a positive one for you

    Leave a comment:

  • flowers73
    Thanks for this. Yes, was time to seek advice and I have spoken to a really good employment solicitor. I explained the situation and how wages were never suggested in the contract or subsequent letter, only cost of training. As it was funded elsewhere, he feels there is no legal basis for them to claim and the letter has been sent, basically to bully me. Letting him do his stuff. I'll keep in contact and let you know what happens...! Thanks x

    Leave a comment:

  • Ula
    Oh gosh what a shock.

    I have been digging around and have found this case which was dealt with by the Scottish legal system Strathclyde Regional Council v Neil which did go to appeal. This case was about recovery of training costs over a two year sliding scale and the enforceability of it. Where this has some significance to your situation is that the original agreement did make very clear that wages were included alongside training course costs. Now I am wondering whether your ex-employer is aware of this case and is looking to rely on it for the current situation. However, based on what you have detailed in your posts at no point has recovering of wages been detailed as an item that will be recovered and you have already dealt with the training course costs as these were paid by the government. The other thing in my opinion is that the 12 month period over which repayment is due is not on a sliding scale.

    I think to give you piece of mind it may be time to speak to a Scottish based lawyer, many law firms do an initial free call which may be enough to guide you as to whether there is any merit in your ex employer pursuing you for reimbursement of wages paid to you whilst you attended the training. If/when you do get to speak to someone please point out you were required to attend the training by the company.

    With my lack of Scottish employment law experience and with the amounts they seeking to be reimbursed I would not want to give you guidance I am not 100% sure of.

    Leave a comment:

  • flowers73
    Well, that went well...
    I received a registered letter today demanding 3K for 'wages' and national insurance contributions for repayment of wages paid to me for the study days.
    They state they want it paid imediately.
    I am shocked at this. They didn't pay for the courses and agreed to release me day release yet they now want their wages back as they can't claim for fees?!

    Leave a comment:

  • flowers73
    Many thanks for your response. Nothing in the letter for me to sign - very much a statement rather than an agreement, however my ex employer refers to it as the 'agreement' as per contract!
    I'll let you know you I get on. Meanwhile, thank you again for all your advice and assistance. What a fantastic site this is :-)

    Leave a comment:

  • Ula
    For the letter was there any requirement for you to sign it either requested in the letter or a section at the bottom for you to sign? That aside I still maintain that the costs to be recovered are purely the costs of the course which since it was government funded means there are none. The article you linked me to is very useful and support the fact that your previous employer cannot deduct wages from you.

    I hope you have sent a letter to them and if so try not to worry and wait to see what they come back with.

    Leave a comment:

  • flowers73
    Thank you so much. I'm so worried by all this.
    I will write to them saying just that.

    Can I ask, the letter was just that - not signed by me - just a letter to which I felt didn't apply as they were not paying for the course.
    Does this overule my contract?
    I had always thought wages could not be reclaimed as I was on a training course as part of my employment and therefore entitled to be paid my standard wage for attending.
    I did find this - http://news.markellaw.co.uk/post/102...rting-employee
    It states:
    " as a general rule, a deduction (or repayment demand in my instance) can only be made where an external cost has been incurred. In short, time given by the employer or its staff to train up a new recruit, cannot in most circumstances, be deducted as a training cost when the worker leaves. Any clause which penalises the worker would be considered to be a penalty clause and is therefore unenforceable. If the deduction is not solely for the cost of the training but for expenses or wages. This would amount to penalising the worker for leaving, rather than a recovery of a genuine loss incurred by the employer. The purpose of the deduction is to enable the employer to recover its losses, and therefore only the cost of the course. Recovery is generally restricted to the actual cost of the course, (taking into account the sliding scale of value as noted above). If an employer deducts expenses for travel and accommodation for the course, or wages paid to the employee on their days of attendance at the course, this would be regarded as an unlawful deduction and the employee could claim the payment back"

    I am wondering if the letter, which my manager referred to in emails is 'as per contract' is an attempt just to get me to pay - the letter is nothing like the contract - if the letter was a change to my contract, then surely this should be stated explicitly, not just a letter signed by my manager with no reference to the contract?
    My manager prior to trying to get me to refund the money approached the local council to ask for additional funding to refund the company for my wages on the study days - they were promptly told to do one. Hence, I started getting emails demanding money.
    I'm also not sure about her asking me to work for nothing to 'repay' my wages for 4 weeks full time. I was basically told, work for nothing or we will invoice you for wages paid on the study days. Something is definintely not right here. I think time is giving me some clarity...!

    I appreciate your advice and thoughts. Continued thanks. x

    Leave a comment:

  • Ula
    Sorry I missed your recent post.

    So I believe from what you have said at post #1 they have accepted that they received funding for the courses so as they have not paid for the courses they had no reason to ask you for repayment of the training costs.

    The handbook and the email regarding the first course refer only to repayment of training course costs if you leave within 12 months of completing the training. My concern is the more ambiguous wording of the letter for the second course
    (since it states costs not training costs) for which the company could try and argue that they consider wages to be part of the cost for sending you on training.

    I would suggest that you write to your ex-employer stating that all correspondence - detail the handbook and email/letter for each course you received with their dates- in regard to the repayment of training in the event of leaving their employment within 12 months refers to course costs only. Point out that having been reminded by you the company has confirmed that they were government funded courses and have agreed that as such there are no course costs to repay. Since recovery of wages paid whilst attending training was not specified as a recoverable cost you are therefore unsure as to why the company is now requesting reimbursement. If the company wishes to pursue this then please can they provide evidence to support their view that wages whilst attending training was a recoverable cost.

    Leave a comment:

  • flowers73
    Many thanks for your response. Yes that was from the handbook. The thing I can't get my head round is that they didn't pay for the courses - both were funded outwith. I had a look at my handbook again and it also stated that on study days, the normal days wage would be paid:
    "If study leave is granted, you will be paid as normal".

    My handbook states:
    "Conditions apply with regards to repayment of company funded training in the event of staff leaving post within 12 months of completion. The company has the right to deduct training course costs in the event that you leave within 12 months of completing a training course which has been funded by the company".. except, they didn't fund it - they paid my wage as normal when I attended but that's it.

    The email before the first cost stated:
    "As discussed, you would be liable to repay the £*** course fee to the company should you leave post within 12 months of completion of the training; in line with our company policy". They emailed this and I didn't respond - they didn't pay for this course either.

    The letter I received prior to the second course states:
    "We are happy to fund the course*.You will be liable to repay any monies paid by the company that can not be recouped due to failure to complete the course. Should you leave within twelve months we will require you to make repayment to the company in respect to the costs incurred".
    This was given to me by letter and was signed only by my manager. *Again, they did not fund the course as it was paid by the government and I'm continuing it with my new employer. Luckily I kept emails to prove this. They paid my wage as normal when I attended day release. The wording in the letter which was given to me and not signed by me is a departure from the contract wording.

    I think they are trying to scare me into paying my wages back. Are wages costs? Is giving me a letter an agreement when I didn't sign and can this override the contract?
    Thank you so much for your response in advance - I am very grateful.

    Leave a comment:

  • Ula
    So an example application to strike ( it will carry a cost of £255 to enter to the court )

    Firstly, I am not an expert in Scottish law and since you worked for a Scottish firm I assume your employment contract is based on this legal system. That said the common law contract of employment rules in England and Wales and Scotland are essentially the same and decisions in one jurisdiction are used as persuasive precedents in another.

    On the basis of what you have detailed in your post and the exert from the handbook, “The company has the right to deduct training course costs in the event that you leave post within 12 months of completing a training course which has been funded by the company", then my view is that the requirement to pay back wages to attend the course is not covered as it specifically states training course costs.

    However, you mention a letter sent prior to starting the course what detail in this re repayment?

    Leave a comment:

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