I don’t know if I’m in the wrong or my company is right in asking for this? But about a year ago a new contract was introduced that would make you jump pay points based on completing a portfolio (not supported at work - done at home). I thought this was a great idea, as it also guaranteed a new banding once the portfolio was finished.

The pathway (as they called it) had the following;

  • 0% completion = pay point 1
  • 50% completion = pay point 3 (missing pay point 2)
  • 100% completion = pay point 6, also including a retention bonus and new band status.

The pathway contract also said I would have to pay back £10,000 if I left at any point and was only resolved once I stayed an additional 2 years from being at pay point 6.

I’m currently on pay point 3 - I have not recieved any additional training compared to my colleagues and was not given work hours to complete this portfolio. Overall financial in a year I’ve gained an additional £7,000 on top of my salary.

However now, with how the company has been treating me. Probably because they feel like I can’t leave without paying them back. I’ve started feeling depressed about being here, so I approached them and asked I’d like to leave the contract and eventually leave (6 month notice).

Their response was I need to pay back roughly £4,100 (have calculated from my monthly wages). Unfortunately I don’t have that kind of money to hand back, can they take me to court over this? As otherwise I feel like I can never leave.... unless I stay for many more years.

I did not receive the increased wages as a bonus, nor sent on any training course or had any further educational courses paid for. Am I right in disagreeing to pay?

Sorry for the wall of text, any advice will help me a million.



  • 11
    So, the contract you signed said you had to pay the money back if you left early. Now you'd like to leave early, but you don't want to pay it back? As a separate thought, you may want to add a location tag, since that may influence answers.
    – dwizum
    Jan 30, 2019 at 19:28
  • Thanks for the quick reply dwizum - pretty much, I know it doesn’t sound great on my part at all but because of the situation, I feel trapped and unable to leave. The only reason I thought they might write off the repayement was because I have been at the company for a little over 5 years. I’d understand if I took the pay rise and left immediately. Slightly noobish question but how do I add a new tag?
    – John edson
    Jan 30, 2019 at 19:36
  • Should be an edit tags link next to the tags. If you don't see it, post the location in a comment and I or someone else will edit it in as a tag.
    – dwizum
    Jan 30, 2019 at 19:39
  • 6
    Too late for the OP, but for anyone considering this type of contract in the future: It would be much better to save the money that may need to be repaid until the no repayment condition has been met. That way, if you do need to leave early, you have the cash to repay. Jan 30, 2019 at 19:54
  • Are you certain you're being treated worse than you were? If you're using the same sorts of skills putting together the portfolio as you do at work itself, it might just be that you're burning out from overworking yourself trying to do both.
    – Ben Barden
    Jan 30, 2019 at 20:06

2 Answers 2


So, let's see if I get this right.

  • You are employed by this company. Independently, you also have another contract on top of that for work to do in your own time in exchange for additional remuneration, with extra penalties if you leave. You signed this contract fully understanding the implications.

  • No additional training or resources were promised or provided. The contract was not intended to be fore work hours, and you've been given no work hours for it.

  • The extra penalties of the contract were 10,000 pounds if you left before full completion. You have not yet achieved full completion.

  • Overall, as a result of signing the contract (and doing some non-work-hours work) you've thus far received 7,000 pounds. The early departure penalty was 10,000 pounds.

  • The work you've done thus far was not a trivial amount, but is not something that the company can meaningfully leverage without you continuing to work on it, and may not be of any value to them at all in your absence.

  • You've gotten demoralized and want to leave. The company has said that in order to leave, you need to pay back some money - not the 10,000 or even the 7,000 but just 4,100. You don't have that money, and you want to know if this is fair.

The fact is, with the contract as described, this is more than fair. This is the company being kind. The're totally within rights to charge you the full 10,000. By charging less than the 7,000 they're actually taking a loss on your little side-contract thing - they paid you more than that on the expectation that you would deliver something of value, and you haven't delivered anything they can use yet. The fact that you don't have that kind of money is not their fault... especially with the additional money that you've gotten from them already.

Yes. They can probably take you to court over this, or equivalent. Based on the contract as described, there's a good chance they could get more out of you than just the 4,100 if they wanted (quite possibly making you pay the attorney's fees as well). That's the thing about lock-in contracts. They lock you in. It's possible that you could slip out of this one on a technicality, and talking with a lawyer would help you find one, but lawyer time isn't free.

Your best option at this point, if you can manage it, is to adjust your expectations, make your peace with your situation, somehow manage your emotional state, and finish out the contract. Admittedly, managing your own mental state to that degree is not easy. Still, it's possible that if you have specific issues with the way they've been treating you recently, you could ask here, and we could provide suggestions on what to do to make the situation more livable while staying employed, finishing the portfolio side contract, and so forth. You did think it was a good deal at one point, after all. There has to be some upside... and it sounds like the sort of thing that would be really good for your career overall, if you can manage it. Take it as a challenge, rather than a misery.

If that is not possible for you for whatever reason (entirely understandable), then you're going to want to wander over to money.stackexchange.com (and perhaps a few frugality blogs), because it's time for some serious belt-tightening. You don't have the 4,100 pounds now, but I can almost guarantee that you can save it up within the six months if you're willing to budget hard enough. It would probably be good for you, honestly.

Whatever you do, don't try to fight them on the 4,100 pounds without spending some serious time talking with a lawyer you can trust. It could get a lot worse.

  • Thanks so much for your reply Ben, I agree that I went in knowing about the exit fee and of course it isn’t their fault I lack the money they require. But what I find hard to swallow is, I have given so many years to the company and assumed (wrongly) this would be cancelled out due to my previous years hard work. Additionally I know this should have been mentioned earlier but the portfolio helps progress anyone in the company from a band 5 to band 6. How ever many others have been given the band 6 position with out the portfolio (they are members of staff that have been there as long as I have
    – John edson
    Jan 30, 2019 at 20:01
  • 3
    However, this post would be like sayin that - on the face of it - contracts from the era of slavery were meaningful and, in detail, correct and legal. (Which indeed they were ini that context.)
    – Fattie
    Jan 30, 2019 at 20:14
  • 4
    As Dave says above .. "Just because something is in a contract doesn't make it legal. " ... end of story. Your answer simply does not take this basic reality in to account, Ben.
    – Fattie
    Jan 30, 2019 at 20:25
  • Finally Ben! (Sorry for all the comments!) You may have answered before ths additional information was clarified: "The additional money I received was only from being fast tracked onto existing pay points (just got there quicker due to finishing 50% of the portfolio) but they were not paid to me separately as a bonus or mentioned as a bonus and I’ve not gone to any sponsored training sessions or applied for funding (msc etc)."
    – Fattie
    Jan 30, 2019 at 20:26
  • 1
    @Fattie I've adjusted my answer a bit to line up with this reality, but penalties for breach of contract aren't exactly the same as slavery. I'm not saying that they can stop him from leaving, but if he leaves without paying them, they most likely can come after him in the courts.
    – Ben Barden
    Jan 30, 2019 at 20:52

You really need to talk to a lawyer on this.

Was the bonus, training, etc. also part of the contract? This could be important for your lawyer and any further negotiations.

  • Thanks for all your comments guys. The additional money I received was only from being fast tracked onto existing pay points (just got there quicker due to finishing 50% of the portfolio) but they were not paid to me separately as a bonus or mentioned as a bonus and I’ve not gone to any sponsored training sessions or applied for funding (msc etc).
    – John edson
    Jan 30, 2019 at 19:50

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