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UKSolicitorJA
UKSolicitorJA, Solicitor
Category: UK Employment Law
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Experience:  solicitor
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I was being sponsored by my employer for part of my fees for

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I was being sponsored by my employer for part of my fees for a masters course. The agreement stated that

' In the event of voluntarily leaving the company, company costs relating to the year will be refunded by you in full (if leaving within the lifetime of the course)'

I left at the end of the first year so my interpretation of this is that no repayment is due as year 1 was over and no money had yet been paid for year 2. Company is insisting on payment as they say I left within the lifetime of the course.

Further, prior to resigning my manager told me no fees would be repayable as year 1 would be over by the time I left. My decision to resign took this into account. Less than a week before leaving his decision was overturned. I am arguing that a) year 1 was over and b) even if they don't consider year 1 to have been over when I left, I would have delayed my leaving date had they given me more than 4 days notice that I would have to repay fees.

Before leaving I agreed in email to repay the fees as i no longer had a copy of the agreement to refer to and took their word that money was owed. Having since found a copy of the agreement I dispute this.

Company is public sector, as is my new company.

If this goes to court do I stand a chance? Obviously I don't want a CCJ. They have offered to let me pay back over 12 months but I wouldn't be able to afford that even if I agreed it was owed. Total amount is just less than £4k.
Hello,

Did you leave employment voluntarily and is there any definition of "year" in the agreement?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
I left voluntarily, although my post had been designated ''affected by change' which in the NHS means it might be at risk of redundancy at a later date. My company was part of the NHS and I have stayed in the NHS.

There is no definition of year in the agreement. The agreement was just an email from my manager that I had to reply yes to.
Thank you.

I am afraid I would agree with your employer that you are liable to refund the company costs for the first year as you left within the lifetime of the course and you left employment voluntarily.

If the provision was that you were to refund the costs if you left within the year, then that would absolve you from refunding the money, but the operative wording is "lifetime of the course" and leaving voluntarily.

Sorry. I don't think you have a chance if it went to court and suggest you try and negotiate about refunding the money amicably.
UKSolicitorJA and other UK Employment Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Why is more importance given to the 'lifetime of the course' part rather than the 'costs relating to the year' part?
To put it another way:

You left within the lifetime of the course therefore you are required to refund company costs relating to the year in full. If you left in year 3, you would only be obliged to refund year 3 costs, not costs for the preceding years 1 and 2.

Since you left at the end of year 1, you are required to refund year 1 costs.

Hope this clarifies. Please leave feedback

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
That's exactly my point - I left after year 1 was over so arguably was in year 2 at the point of leaving.
If you were in year 2, then you need to show evidence to that effect in which case I agree with you that you are not obliged to refund costs for year 1.

Obviously if this goes to court, the judge will have the final say over whether or not you are liable.

Hope this helps.