Firstly, let’s be clear that, in general, it is mutually beneficial to invest in the up-skilling of employees and it is considered a normal part of the employer-employee relationship that the employer will pay for or contribute to the costs of employee training. The benefit to the employee being the opportunity to develop their skill-set by learning more about a particular profession or product, while for the employer should gain from a more qualified and enthusiastic workforce, which will hopefully translate into increased or more efficient business. Developing a training and development programme can be a very powerful Human Resources tool for employers that can work to retain loyal staff and attract new talent.
Most of the time the type of courses that the employer will pay for are typically one or two day courses run either by an association linked to the particular business or even by a manufacturer who wants to illustrate technical benefits of a particular product range.
However, there are some situations where a course is going to involve a greater investment of time by the employee and a larger financial investment by the employer. In some industries, such as the legal and accountancy professions, there is strict formal training that will be spread over a number of years. Here it is common for the employer to cover the fees and often pay a salary to the employee whilst they are going through the particular course. The benefit to the firm is that the employee is available to assist the senior members of the profession and “learn on the job”.
It is not uncommon for the employee to part company with the business at the end of the training and there is usually no question of the employee reimbursing the employer for the cost of the training.
However, with profit margins still tight and the need to retain the most talented staff, it is becoming more and more common for businesses to have a clause in a contract of employment that where the employer pays for certain training, the employee is expected to stay in the business for a certain period of time after the training has been completed and, if they leave before that period of time, they must reimburse some or all of the fees that have been paid on their behalf.
Ultimately, investing in staff is a great way for an employer to demonstrate the value they see in them. It is a practice that has been used in human resource in Ireland for years and will no doubt continue to be used. It is up to you as the employer to establish the formal commitment that is to be associated with the training you provide to your employees and that it is agreed, in writing, prior to their commencement of the course, preferably in your staff handbook.
The contents of this article are necessarily expressed in broad terms and limited to general information rather than detailed analyses or legal advice. Specialist professional advice should always be obtained to address legal and other issues arising in specific contexts.