Since the training had not been necessary for the employee's job performance, an employee who had terminated his employment contract had to repay the study costs borne by the employer, as agreed with the employer in advance.
On 1 January 2021, an employee started to work at a small accountancy firm.
Prior to entering employment, an agreement was made about the training costs the employee had to repay to his previous employer, which was an amount of over € 30,000, and about repayment of the study the employee would start shortly after commencement of his employment.
It was agreed that the employer would provide the employee with a loan for these costs, that the employee would have to repay these costs upon termination of the employment, but that the loan would be forgiven once three years had passed after completion of the theoretical part of the training.
In August 2022, the employee gave notice of termination of his employment contract, after which the parties agreed that the employment contract would end on August 31, 2022.
When the employer asked the employee to come up with a proposal for repayment of the study costs, the employee informed him that he had assumed that they would be forgiven and that he wanted to reverse his termination notice. The employer, however, confirmed the termination.
On August 26, 2022, the employer wrote the employee, saying that he had a suspicion that the employee had set up his own company and that he used it to provide competing services. The employer threatened with summary dismissal and asked for a meeting to talk about it on August 29, 2022. When the employee did not appear at the meeting, he was summarily dismissed. The employer also placed attachment on the employee's bank account in order to enforce repayment of the study costs.
The dispute arisen was submitted to the Sub-district Court.
It ruled that the summary dismissal was not legally valid. Even though the registration in the trade register and the employee’s LinkedIn profile showed that the employee had started his own company in January 2022, it had not been demonstrated that the employee had also performed any work in it, with the exception of one day in August. These activities, however, had been performed during a holiday and had not been competitive with those of the employer. The Sub-district Court considered the employee's conduct inappropriate and could imagine that it had affected the employer’s trust as a result, but the employer had not given a plausible reason why he could not be expected to continue the employment contract for two more days.
Since the employee had not returned to the reversal of the termination notice after the employer had confirmed the termination, the Sub-district Court took it as an established fact that the employment contract would end on August 31, 2022.
The employer also had to pay the employee the transitional allowance, since it had not been demonstrated that the employee had behaved seriously culpably.
The employee had also stated that the prohibition of ancillary activities in the employment contract had become null and void as of 1 August 2022, since the law required an objective justification for the prohibition of ancillary activities from that date. But, since the Sub-district Court considered the one day performance of ancillary activities in August 2022 not competitive, it did not assess the legal validity of the prohibition on ancillary activities.
As for the study costs, the employee stated that he had been employed to work as a chartered accountant in the future and that the related training courses were required. The employer disputed this, however, and the Sub-district Court did not found it proven. Since it did not involve training that was required for the performance of the job, the employee was obliged to repay the study costs, with the exception of a part of which the three-year period had expired by then. Therefore, the attachment placed by the employer was maintained.
The law contains an employer’s obligation to provide the employee with training that is required for the performance of the job. Since 1 August 2022, the employer is also obliged to bear the costs of such compulsory training. Agreements between the employer and the employee that lay down a repayment obligation to the compensation for training costs in the event of the employee leaving the employment within a specified period have ceased to be legally valid since that date, if it concerns training that is required for the performance of the job. If, however, it concerns training that should enable the employee to take up another position in the future, this is no compulsory training. In that case, the employer does not have to compensate the costs and if he does so, he can require the employee to agree to a repayment obligation in case of leaving the employment within a certain period of time.