2 October 2023
Since 1 August 2022, employers may no longer charge employees for the cost of certain training and education through a study cost clause.
Any training that is required by law or under a collective labour agreement must be offered free of charge and is considered as working time. In addition, attending training should, if possible, take place during working hours. But what is meant by compulsory training? This question was recently the subject of a court case. As a team leader, if you want to encourage employee development, you can have them participate in training. A study costs clause will ensure that your organisation reaps the benefits of this investment.
A study costs clause includes agreements on who bears the cost of the training, and whether the training can take place during working hours. It also stipulates whether there is a repayment obligation when the employment contract ends, and up to what amount. In the case in question, an employer and employee had agreed on the repayment of study costs. The employer assumed the cost of training as an occupational physician, unless the employment contract ended within three years of the start of the training. In that case, the employee would have to repay part of the training costs.
The employee then terminated his employment contract before the end of the training. In response, the employer demanded repayment of the training costs incurred. The employee, however, did not believe that he was required to repay the training costs. He argued that training as a company doctor was compulsory and therefore the agreements in the study costs clause were invalid. The court viewed this differently. The training in question was professional training, intended to lead to a professional qualification as referred to in the Professional Qualification Directive (Beroepskwalificatierichtlijn). As such, the training did not fall within the compulsory training provided for by the law, and the employer was allowed to make arrangements with the employee for the repayment of these costs.
As the amount involved was substantial, the court also considered whether it was reasonable for the employee to have to repay it. Based on all the circumstances of the case, including the fact that the employee himself had terminated the employment contract, the court found that it was reasonable that the employee repay the amount to the employer. However, the costs were slightly mitigated because the employer had not provided the employee with a clear understanding of the amount. The employee was required to repay the training costs to the tune of over €45,000.
District Court of Overijssel, 1 February 2023, ECLI (abridged) 336
Since 1 August 2022, employers can only make agreements with employees about the repayment of non-compulsory training. Compulsory training is training that is required to perform the job. In the case in question, training as an occupational physician was not compulsory because the employee himself had expressed the desire to be trained as an occupational physician, and also joined the company of the employer for that reason. To avoid your organisation agreeing on an invalid study costs clause, our advice is therefore to first check whether your organisation is subject to a training obligation under the collective labour agreement or the law.
Examples of compulsory training include training to ensure safety, or training to learn how to work with a particular computer system. See also the annex to the ‘Regulations listing regulated professions’ (Regeling vaststelling lijst gereglementeerde beroepen). If the training is listed, this means that it is not compulsory and a repayment arrangement can be agreed with employees. In addition, it is advisable to reassess training clauses regularly and to inform employees in good time if agreements regarding the reimbursement of training costs prove to be invalid. This will prevent discussions afterwards.
Do you have any questions? Please do not hesitate to contact us.
This article appeared earlier in Rendement.
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