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I've been working as an engineer in a company for more than a year and this is my first job.

During the interview I asked about taking time off for exams. They told me they did not want me to work and study at the same time because former employees misused the time allowed for attending exams, classes etc. I really wanted to study at that time but I needed a job, this was the best choice of the alternatives and I was inexperienced at negotiating - so I accepted it. I also thought I could improve myself here. I certainly learn things but not in the way I want.

Last summer, I was off work for months because of a medical condition and I had to stay at home. I was bored doing nothing so I applied to a university to see if I got accepted. I didn't think I would but surprisingly I did. I know I shouldn't have done that, but I didn't want to miss the chance to study: I may not have the chance to get accepted again. I couldn't tell my employer, though, so now I am keeping a secret from the company. I really want to tell them and I also need to somehow ask for time off to go to classes.

So far I've been going to classes just after work or on my days off. I've never violated working hours because of it. As a result, I can't attend any of the classes I actually want. It's like it's only a hobby.

A month ago, I heard that they are allowing another employee to work and study at the same time, including going to classes, exams, etc. I think company policies might have changed in favor of studying while working. I want to talk to my manager about my situation as soon as possible. They might fire me for not complying with their conditions. They have the right to do that, in my opinion. I know that what I did was wrong.

I want to continue studying, but I also like my job. I don't want to quit; I just want some flexibility. I think they could agree to me attending some classes if I can explain the conditions well. Maybe I can convince them that I won't waste the time they allow me for going to classes.

How should I tell them? Should I mention the other employee or will that make things worse? Should I tell them my reason for studying is because I couldn't find the opportunity to improve myself at work?

I am open to all suggestions that go beyond just telling me I behaved wrongly. As you can see, I am aware of that.

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I understand their point of view, but simply saying you're not allowed to study and work at the same time (assuming the studying doesn't interfere with your work) is really beyond the scope of what a company is / should be allowed to say, not to mention that not wanting their employees to be want to learn more in their field (even if it does affect their work a little on the short term) is really bad in my opinion, although I realize that this doesn't actually help with your problem. –  Dukeling Mar 25 at 18:24
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Don't start from this position as it guarantees an argument but... If they cared so much about you not studying, it should be in your employment contract. Not sure where you're based (and IANAL) but if they tried to fire me in your situation, I'd ask them to show me the condition in writing. Failing that, they need to go through the "usual" firing process - having interviews, performance reviews, etc, etc to show you're not doing your job. –  Basic Mar 25 at 18:38

3 Answers 3

up vote 22 down vote accepted

First off, don't bring up what you've done so far. There's just no point.

Instead just approach your manager and ask permission to work and study. It sounds like the situation has already changed in the company so he should agree. I wouldn't bring up the other employee UNLESS I was denied.

If I was denied then I'd simply ask why they've agreed to let employee X do this but not me. BTW, this type of question is already confrontational and will put the manager on the defensive. So try to make sure the manner in which you say it is as friendly or casual as possible while still looking for an answer. It's hard to describe but often how a question or statement is delivered helps set the other person in a frame of mind to help or block.

If you are still not allowed to do both then look for another job that is more in line with your personal situation. Regardless of how it plays out I simply wouldn't bring up what you've already been doing. Ever.

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One way to broach the topic is to acknowledge that rules might be different for new hires and people who've proven themselves. You have a record now; maybe that changes things. –  Monica Cellio Mar 25 at 15:10
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@user2191454: under no circumstance would I mention it unless asked a direct question about it. If they know already and haven't said anything then that is tacit acceptance. –  Chris Lively Mar 25 at 20:18

My question to you is "Do you have to ask prior permission from the company before you can go back to school?" Personally, I'd be aggravated with any employer who presume to tell me what I can and cannot do with my time off-premises and off-official business hours. As a systems engineer, I expect to be on-call. I also expect that I know exactly what I am supposed to do for the employer while I am on-call. The rest of my life is mine.

If you go to class after business hours, then your going to class is your own business. If you are going to class during business hours, then your employer is being faced with having to accommodate you during business hours and if you work full-time for that employer, then any refusal from him to accommodate you during official business hours is legitimate.

If you are talking to your manager about making accommodations for you during business hours, then be careful not to volunteer any information about your previous classes, even under pressure - What's done is done, nobody got hurt and let sleeping dogs lie.

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starspluplus: It is really strange to me that this employer would think that it has the right to dictate to its employees what they can or cannot do during off-business hours. I mean: "You are not working for me. I am not paying you. But I can still tell you what you can can cannot do with your time." To me, that's an incredible amount of chutzpah. More likely, I think there was a misunderstanding between the OP and the employer: the employer has the right to say "No, you cannot take classes during business hours" and "You cannot work for a competitor during off-business hours" –  Vietnhi Phuvan Mar 26 at 12:44

I would do a little investigation first to see if the company policy HAS changed, before bringing it up with your bosses or anyone.

There should be a way to get your most recent contract, and to read it over to see if there's anything forbidding what you're doing right now.

If there isn't, then you can bring up the idea to your bosses, but I would be cautious about bringing up what you've been doing directly - you WERE going behind their backs and doing something that they didn't want you to do, so there is reason to be concerned. Assess their reaction, and find out first if there would be any backlash if you were to try to do the same thing today.

From there, it's up to you whether or not you tell them what you've been doing - it really depends on how you feel they'll react to it, and whether or not they'd be upset at you doing this during your own personal time.

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"legally" is highly dependent on the locale of the OP. I'd strike that statement. –  Chris Lively Mar 25 at 14:44
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There is no condition forbids it. –  user2191454 Mar 25 at 14:49

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