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Ask the expert: Training payback agreements


Can an organisation force an employee to pay back training fees? Esther Smith, partner at Thomas Eggar, and Martin Brewer, partner and employment law specialist at Mills and Reeve, offer legal advice.

The question:
A friend works for an airline and following completion of a training course was ‘bonded’ for two years, with a payback on a sliding scale of the fees if he left their employment. He has since been promoted and has been issued with a new contract of employment (with no mention of the bonding agreement). He is also now back on probation for a six month period due to the new position. Is the bonding agreement still valid if he were to leave?

Sarah Toye

Legal advice:

Esther Smith, partner, Thomas Eggar

The definitive answer would depend on the wording of the documents which I have obviously not seen, but if the airline is well advised the original agreement will still stand, and your friend should certainly expect the company to seek to rely on the provisions of the bonding agreement.

If the original bonding agreement was separate to his original contract, even if referred to it in that contract, it will probably be easier for the company to rely on it. The company’s position with regard to recovery of the money should not be affected by the fact that he is now on probation in his new role, but will depend entirely on the construction of the documentation.

Esther Smith is a partner in Thomas Eggar’s Employment Law Unit. For further information please visit Thomas Eggar

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Martin Brewer, partner and employment law specialist, Mills and Reeve

This is a purely contractual question and difficult to answer without seeing the contract. However, what we can say is this; if the new contract your friend entered into contained a clause which said effectively that the new contract replaces, entirely, all previous agreements between the parties, then the strong likelihood is that the bonding agreement has been superseded and is no longer valid.

In the absence of such wording however the likelihood is that the bonding agreement will continue to apply. It will also be relevant to look at the terms of the bonding agreement itself in case it refers to the employee leaving the job to which the agreement relates rather than the employment per se.

Martin can be contacted at: [email protected]

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