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Written by:
Bas Hollenberg


Repayment of tuition fees

Employers have the option of coming to an arrangement with their employees concerning the repayment of employer-sponsored tuition fees. The employer in such a scenario will be under the obligation to observe proper employment practices and act with reasonableness and fairness. The latter requirements are by definition a restrictive factor where agreements are concerned.

A Supreme Court ruling dating back to 1983 has continued to date to serve as the guiding principle in matters of this nature. The Supreme Court ruled at the time that the legislative system did not outright put the kybosh on tuition fee repayment arrangements. The scheme in question, said the Court, had to stipulate the period of time during which the employer was deemed to benefit from the knowledge and skills its employee had acquired. The scheme could provide for the employee having to pay back the tuition fees to the employer on termination of the employment contract. The repayment obligation was required proportionately to decline as the aforementioned term went by. The Supreme Court in its ruling formulated a number of supplementary conditions, such as the one insisting that the scheme should not be at odds with the Minimum Wage and Minimum Holiday Allowance Act of the Netherlands and the one stipulating that the employee should be au fait with the repayment scheme and its consequences. The employer moreover may miss out on reimbursement if its employee’s service contract was terminated at its own initiative.

An employee argued that he would not have gone along with the tuition fee agreement had he been aware that his passing the examination within the relevant period of time was a condition for having his definite employment contract renewed. To make matters worse he had not been provided with proper information about the level of the tuition fees at the time the agreement was entered into. According to the Sub District Court, proper employment practices precluded the recovery of tuition fees in this particular case, as it had been the employer which had insisted when the employee first joined it to enrol in the course, the costs associated with which – at almost two net monthly salaries – had been substantial compared to the employee’s level of pay. The Sub District Court berated the employer for having failed to inform its employee of the 50% or so success rate of the curriculum in question.

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