It is often that workers educate themselves alongside their employment, whether or not related to their job. Employers tend to support employees in continuing their education, as a broader-minded workforce is also more valuable to them. The question often arises as to how and in what ways employers can support employees to continue their studies. Below we present practical solutions to this issue.
The most common is that, under a study contract, the employer provides certain support for the training, while the employee undertakes to continue his studies and obtain a qualification and not to terminate his employment by notice for a certain period of time afterwards.
Subject of the study contract
A study contract may not be concluded for training if the employer ordered the employee to compete it. Except this case, however, it may cover any in-school or non-school training or education. The parties may also conclude an agreement on the acquisition of qualification or the achievement of a specific academic result or average.
Duration of the agreement
According to the legislation, the worker may not terminate his employment contract by giving notice within a period proportional to the amount of the support, but not exceeding five years after the end of the studies. The duration must be proportional not to the length of the training but to the amount of the employer’s support. In other words, the purpose of the employee’s “restriction” is to recoup the employer’s support through the employee’s employment for a specified period. A disproportionately long restriction may result invalidity of the contract.
The form of the support
The form of support provided by the employer in respect of the studies is typically the payment of all or part of the training fees. In addition, or in parallel, support may of course include the purchase of study materials, the payment of travel/accommodation costs, or the employer may ensure the attendance of the employee at training and exams, which typically take place during or affecting working hours. Indeed, support may be provided if the employer grants extra day(s) off for the preparation time necessary for the exams.
Exemption from contractual obligations
It is important to emphasize that the obligation arising from the study contract only applies to the normal termination of the employee, so if the conditions are met, the employee can terminate his employment with immediate effect. In addition, the law also states that the employee is exempted from his obligations if the employer commits a serious breach of contract (e.g.: fails to provide the study support he has undertaken to provide).
The employer also has the right of withdrawal and reclaim if the employee breaches the provisions applicable to him or if the employer terminates the employment relationship on the basis of the employee’s behaviour.
Another important point to note is that if there is a material change in the circumstances of the parties which would make performance impossible or result in unreasonable hardship, the party concerned has the right to terminate the contract with immediate effect.
In reality, the parties may not always wish to enter into a study contract with each other, and there may even be situations where it is not practical or reasonable.
An example is when the employer does not provide financial support but only allows the employee to attend classes or to take a few extra days off. In such a case, the employee’s restriction would only be enforceable for a period equivalent to the leave, in view of the requirement of proportionality, which is hardly realistic. In such cases, it is suggested that the parties consider other arrangements. As to the previous example, an alternative solution could be for the parties to agree on (unpaid) leave for the days of the exams or to (mutually) extend the notice period for a fixed period.