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I have a German employment contract which stipulates that if I was to leave the company before a certain time, I would have to pay back (some of) the cost of training to the employer. In this case, there was not really any "training" provided, apart from some online course material that I can complete in my own time. My working time was spent actively contributing to the company, and not "training" per-se.

My question is this, what is the actual legality of such as clause in the first place? Would the clause be invalidated if I was to make a legal case that there was no actual training provided apart from what is mentioned above?

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A clause like this is very common across Europe (I've seen similar in the UK). It's intended to reimburse the company if they have paid a significant amount for training - for example an off site or residential course.

I know of no laws that might be broken by the clause, and believe that it would be lawful for your employer to attempt to enforce it under civil law.

But if there has been no significant training cost borne by your employer (and it certainly sounds like that might be the case - unless they paid a fee for the online material), it's unlikely that this would happen. You probably wouldn't even need to make a legal case - it would be up to your employer to demonstrate that you had received training at their cost.

  • Thank you for the advice. I understand that there would be a cost to the employer for the online material (udemy) but it could in no way be close to the figures that are stipulated in my employment contract. There were no off-site trainings apart from an induction for a few weeks before my main employment. However it is implied in the contract that there would be more training since then, and so far there has been very little – user87594 Dec 10 '18 at 16:39
  • Technically not Advice (I'm just some bloke on the internet), but I hope I answered the question. If your employer suggests there's a significant amount to repay, I would ask them for an itemised list. – ItWasLikeThatWhenIGotHere Dec 10 '18 at 16:49
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    A slight addition: it would be up for the company to prove the training costs before they can bill them. If they can't prove training cost (no, going to the workplace and giving instructions of the basic workflow does not count), they can't bill them. If however, they paid to get you, for example, a truck-license, they are in their right to charge you for that unless you compensated under the contract. If no training happened, that is the company's choice. They just need to open their door for the max they might need to get back. – Trish Mar 14 at 9:12
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Very much just an opinion, but I believe that company process costs (i.e. induction) are a cost that the company imposes on themselves as part of the recruitment process. These costs shouldn't be reimbursable.

If the company provides you with generalised training which provides direct transferable skills value to you (and doesn't receive the benefit of that training), then you have effectively used them as an intermediary to purchase your own training.

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