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My previous company had a subscription to an online training website for all employees. I was made redundant a few months ago but I recently discovered that my login still works. Should I login and do a few courses while it's still active or could there be some repercussions?

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  • Is it possible that your former employer is intentionally allowing you to use it for a limited time as part of your severance? It may be worth asking.
    – Theodore
    Jan 3, 2023 at 15:56

5 Answers 5

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Should I login and do a few courses while it's still active or could there be some repercussions?

No, you should not.

It does not cost you very much to buy these online courses on your own because most online training websites often have lots of discounts, which can be 90% off all the time. It is safer that way as you don't want to have to deal with any possible "unauthorized access" and other headaches later on. Note that unauthorized access to a computer system is an actual crime in some countries (see e.g. the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in the USA, or StGB §202a in Germany).

However, you still can email your former manager or call HR to ask if it is OK for you to logon and take the courses. There are 2 possible scenarios:

  1. They may say that the courses are granted to ONLY current employees because the company only buys a limited number of licenses for those courses.
  2. Or, they may say that it is OK for you to take the courses because they already paid for all employees for life. Even if you no longer work there, the courses are still friendly gifts for you to improve your skills and knowledge.
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    In the event of #2, it's critical to get it in writing from an official source with the authority to make the claim. Jan 3, 2023 at 17:16
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No, you should not login and do any courses. You should assume the subscription is paid for by your former company and that it is only for current (not former) employees.

Your safest bet is to assume there could be repercussions.

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Different firms offer different kinds of subscriptions. It's possible your company bought 1-year subscriptions (for less a month than monthly ones) and can't get a refund if someone leaves with time on their subscription. It's also possible that they could get a refund, but consider the amount too small to spend time getting back. In these cases, you using the subscription would probably be ok, though it would be good to check.

In other cases, the company buys "seats" and can shuffle them around either using some sort of dashboard or by contacting a sales rep. Your subscription might be destined for someone who hasn't started working there yet. It could disappear at any moment, or you using it might cause them to be charged a fee since you used it this month.

In still other cases, they are being charged a monthly fee for you and will until they remember to turn it off. It doesn't matter whether you use it or not, but if you are nice enough to remind them about it, they can save a few dozen dollars a month by turning it off.

In all of these cases the good and nice thing to do is ask. "Sure am going to miss my [training company] subscription... does that stick around for a bit? Could I use it without costing you anything?" If you asked me that, I'd give you the honest answer. And whether you get to do the training or not, you'll have a clear conscience.

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The fact that your login still works only means that someone forgot to disable it, not that you have the right to use it. So in the worst case, you could be accused of the legal equivalent of hacking into their computers. Especially if it costs the company money, or if someone doesn't like you, or both.

On the other hand, it may be that they don't mind at all; they might have a contract where you accessing the courses doesn't cost them anything. For example, if they pay for "up to 20 users" and you are user #17, they might be fine, but block you when they have four more users and you would stop an employee from using the course. So the solution is to call them and to ask for permission.

You might also be doing the company a favour: They might be paying for you and the person in control of these subscriptions hasn't been told that you left, and in ten years time their successor checks the list and asks "who is this Mr. Thyroid that we have been paying for for the last ten years?". So calling them is a nice thing to do as well.

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I'm going to give two contradictory answers:

Answer number 1: The Sysadmin Answer - No you should not login, you should notify the company of the potential security breach and put in your communication that you are concerned that other logins you had may still be active - and that should there be an IT security incident you don't want to be blamed/held liable.

That's the 'correct' answer and the professional answer.

Answer number 2: They made you redundant, but couldn't be bothered to close off your access, so fill your boots and do any courses that you want and consider it part of your redundancy package.

This is the more morally grey answer - I don't recommend it or condone it - but...

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    I would also fill my boots. Jan 2, 2023 at 1:43
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    That is dangerous advice. Yes, it is probable the company will either not notice, or not care about that type of access - however, they might notice. The danger is mainly that in some countries there is the crime of "unauthorized access to a computer system" (e.g. the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in the USA, or StGB §202a in Germany). So you may become criminally liable by doing this. Granted, this is not likely, but I don't think the risk is worth it.
    – sleske
    Jan 2, 2023 at 9:32
  • +1 in Canada, did it a few times and never had any issue. They sometime notice later and close the account and if the account is not closed after an amount of time, I contact them to close it.
    – Tom Sawyer
    Jan 4, 2023 at 13:49

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