The situation has a lot of different aspects, but I'll try to keep the question as focussed as possible.

I have a retail job in the UK, which requires regular training through an online platform (see footnote 1).

Recently, when I tried to log into the platform to complete additional training, I was presented with a Terms & Conditions Update (in the familiar style of Microsoft, Google, Facebook etc.). I read through it and felt uncomfortable agreeing to it, so I clicked "I don't agree" (see footnote 2). This effectively prevents me from accessing the platform and, therefore, completing any training.

I informed my manager that I couldn't access the platform, and I ended up having a conversation with the regional manager (my manager's manager), to whom I explained my concerns and reiterated that I'm happy to complete any training as long as it doesn't involve agreeing to any legal liability.

Wrapped in the familiar passive-aggressive positivity that is common practice in the corporate world today, the manager's response boiled down to:

  • Completing the training is a job requirement (I'm fine with that).
  • This is the only option for completing the training, so you need to agree to the T&C to do it.
  • Take the weekend to decide what you want to do. If you still don't agree, I will have to take formal disciplinary action against you for violation of contract.

Now, I can understand that if I don't agree, I might not be suitable for the role anymore and that they would want to terminate my employment. However, I cannot see how I am in violation of the contract. If that were the case, it would mean that a contract could stipulate that one must accept new stipulations in the future. But I am no lawyer, and the courts and law don't necessarily agree with what makes common sense.

So, what's the case here from a legal point of view? Is there any basis for the assertion that I am in violation of contract?


  1. I looked through my contract again, and there isn't actually an explicit mention of training beyond the induction/probationary period (which I've completely a long time ago as I've been there for 5 years). The current description for my role (though not part of the actual contract) includes the following:

    The ability to complete regular computer-based training to ensure exceptional product knowledge

    and that's about it. However, I am willing to accept that completing the training is a requirement for my role, which I'm willing to do and have been doing until the recent events.

  2. Without getting into details, because that would make this very long, I find that some stipulations are too vague and/or overreaching. In addition, it is stipulated that the agreement "shall survive the termination of the agreement you entered into to provide or undertake work" for the company, so it's something I would indefinitely be bound to.

    I'm not sure how much in that agreement is actually enforceable, but I'm not interested in the possibility of finding out through a potential completely uneven court case (I'm a shop worker with almost no resources, they are a company run by lawyers).

  3. I did say in the conversation that, if accepting these new terms is effectively a job requirement, then they should be included in an updated version of the terms of employment / contract rather than as an end-user agreement. But the response came to "this is what it is" as mentioned above.


People are commenting on a lot of different aspects (which I was avoiding getting into to keep the question short and focussed), so I need to add some info.

The agreement is NOT between the company and a third party (through me); the agreement outlines responsibilities of my self (and every employee) towards the employer by name. And it has nothing to do with personal data. It's about "confidentiality" of the training material.

The last bit needs some explanation: I'm not working for an aerospace engineering company. The training is information to help give advice and sell products to customers (we're literally expected to discuss the information from the training with customers). In that light, confidentiality is absurd. The only thing that's relevant is copyright of the training material, which is already heavily regulated. My personal opinion is that the clauses are an additional weapon to prevent any of the plethora of unflattering information about the company from being discussed publicly (which is something that would not be restricted by copyright laws).

But all of this is personal opinion and not related to the specific question.


Another piece of information (originally omitted for conciseness) necessary due to the discussion:

I explicitly said in my email that "if there is a technical/software limitation" (in removing the T&C pop-up), "I'm also happy to click through the T&C notification in order to get to the training with the written understanding in our communication that I do not agree to the terms as presented."


5 Answers 5


I don't really see what the end game is here - you accept that you need to complete the training in order to fulfil your duties at your job, you accept that the platform offered is the only way for you to do that training, and you accept that refusal could be a de facto reason for termination.

Arguing the minutiae of whether refusing to do the training qualifies as a breach of contract (and FWIW there's likely to be sufficiently broad clauses in the contact that they're covered) isn't really going to achieve anything other than giving everyone involved a headache. Let's imagine that you "win", they agree not require you to sign up to the platform and you carry on with your job as before (minus the training requirement), the phrase "career limiting" doesn't even begin to cover it. Your manager(s) are going to lowkey despise you and any latitude you might have enjoyed in terms the usual day-to-day give and take with employment will be history, your peers might resent you "getting out" of doing the training, and you'll have nailed yourself firmly to the bottom of the list when it comes to consideration for promotions, raises, bonuses, favoured shifts etc.

I don't know what's in the T&Cs that you object to, and even if I did I can't tell you whether you're justified in refusing them or not, but it doesn't matter as it's your choice that matters here; If you find the T&Cs for the platform more objectionable than finding new employment then do the latter.

Others have advised you to consult an employment lawyer for a definitive answer on whether your particular contract would bind you to accept these T&Cs and while they aren't wrong per se I think this is overkill in this scenario, even if they were to win a constructive dismissal claim then unless it is a truly spectacularly paid retail job you're probably not coming away with much to show for it. A better route might be to talk with ACAS, at least to get a sense of your options and whether it's something worth pursuing.

  • 6
    That's funny. I've always held when things like these come up; the T&C is actually an agreement between the site and the employer, not the employee. Same with any software license.
    – Joshua
    Commented Jun 24 at 14:22
  • 6
    I agree that the training needs to be completed, and I agree that the platform is currently the only practical way (though, technically, not the only way, but this is not about me trying to be unreasonable here). I don't agree that accepting any terms put in front me is necessary for getting on the platform and completing the training. "In order to open the gates of training, you must sacrifice your firstborn." Well, no. You can just open the door for me.
    – Ratler
    Commented Jun 24 at 21:09
  • 7
    @Ratler, I think you're missing the point of the answer. I believe motosubatsu is saying that maybe they can just open the door for you instead of making you sacrifice your firstborn, but the people you work with and the people you work for are going to resent you. Maybe that's not fair, but it's how it is. Whether living with that resentment is better than agreeing to the T&Cs is up to you to decide. Commented Jun 24 at 22:52
  • 7
    This is an unnecessarily harsh answer.
    – ave
    Commented Jun 25 at 10:30
  • 13
    If I hire a person, who agrees to mandatory training, but only provide the training on condition that I receive their firstborn child, this is presumably not legal - I could either rescind the firstborn child requirement, or keep paying the employee to do nothing, but I couldn't fire them for it. Commented Jun 25 at 13:35

I'm not a lawyer, and maybe you should speak to one, but my comments based on what I've seen common across different employment contracts:

  • I would imagine that there is a clause that says something to the effect of "you'll need to perform your duties for the role" or similar.
  • It may also have something like "we may ask you to do duties outside of your current role as needed"
  • You can even have employment contracts that say "the terms of employment are described in our employee handbook and can be changed at any time without notice". If you ask for a copy of the handbook, no one knows what it is or where to find it. It probably doesn't matter anyway as they can change it whenever they like.

The summary is:

  • Lawyers will put all sorts of things into contracts to cover themselves.
  • No one generally reads contracts or takes them seriously, and you're considered weird when you do.
  • Companies are unlikely to pursue you if contracts are breached if no damages are involved. Most employment contracts are designed so that you cannot pursue them for something.

If you're a law student, then you have a harder choice as they're taught to actually read what they sign and care about it.

If you're not a law student, then your options are to either accept the contract, that is likely unenforceable, or not desired to be enforced, or be fired for not doing the job as requested.

Keep in mind I have not read these contracts, nor do I know the company, or what's really involved. This is just internet opinion. For a real opinion, hire a lawyer if you care enough about it.

You create time for yourself with a lawyer as they can write a letter to your employer to put them on notice that you're getting legal advice. If the lawyer sends a letter, be prepared for an absolute freak out on the company side of things which might make it even more complicated.

Is this all worth it? Only you can decide.

  • 13
    Reading and being concerned about employment contracts may not be that unusual — nor need it be a big deal.  For example, I've highlighted a specific concern to 2 or 3 prospective employers; in each case they quickly sent me an amended contract which I happily signed, and there were no ill effects.  However, that was before starting the job, so it's not directly applicable to OP.
    – gidds
    Commented Jun 24 at 15:48
  • 9
    In the UK it is not normal to have contracts that say 'the terms of employment are described in our employee handbook and can be changed at any time without notice'. Anything that is defined by contract (such as an employee handbook if referenced like that), is subject to statutory notice at minimum. As such its normal to try and structure these contracts so that there is no change. Which means that whether this would be covered would be likely dependent on the definition of job duties. Commented Jun 25 at 0:25
  • 7
    Can I request my employee's firstborn child on threat of termination or is that not legal? Commented Jun 25 at 13:36

To begin with, I understand your concern. I have twice had employers ask me to sign agreements that I wasn't willing to sign. I should mention I'm a software developer.

One employer asked me to sign an agreement saying that anything I invented or developed or wrote, "on or off company time, and whether or not using company equipment", belonged to the company. So I would not be allowed to do any sort of freelancing, get a second job, or start my own business. I had no plans to do any of those things but I thought I might somewhere down the line. Other employees I talked to were also unwilling to sign the agreement. So we just didn't sign it. We didn't tell management why we weren't signing it, we didn't protest, we just ... didn't give back a signed paper. And nothing came of it. Management did nothing.

I had another time when a different employer asked me to sign an agreement saying that any computer software I developed, "Of any kind whatsoever", while I was employed there or for 5 years after, belonged to the company. Well that meant that if I was fired or quit I couldn't get another computer job for five years. I was on good terms with my boss there so I explained my problem to him, and he agreed to add "relevant to the business of [company]" and then I signed it.

So to your question: You'd have to get a lawyer to review your contract to see if refusing to sign the T&C would put you in violation of the contract. It's likely that the contract includes some broad language that requires you to do anything the boss tells you to do that isn't illegal. Like contracts I've had usually include language like saying I must do X, Y, and Z, and "other duties as assigned".

Arguing that you agree to take the training but refuse to agree to the T&C will probably not get you anywhere. If the only way to take the training is to agree to the T&C, then the employer can say that that's part of the requirement. It would be like saying that you are willing to send emails required for your job but you are not willing to use a computer (because you think computers are evil or dangerous or whatever). If you can't do required task X without also doing Y, then refusing to do Y means you are refusing to do X. In this case, the company could theoretically accomodate you by removing or changing the T&Cs. But apparently they're not willing to do that.

I don't know the details of employment law in the UK, whether you can legally be fired for failing to agree to the T&C or failing to complete the training. But even if they can't fire you for this specifically, it will likely make your boss mad, and they'll be looking for something that they CAN fire you for. You'd be under a microscope looking for the tiniest infraction. Like, they're allowed to fire you for being "chronically late for work"? Hey, two days in a row you were 1 minute late. You're fired. Or whatever.

In the US, you might be able to bring a lawsuit and win if a court agrees that the contract doesn't require this. Maybe get a big payout. But I think UK courts are less friendly to such law suits. And again, I don't know UK labor law, but in the US it's common for employers to ask applicants if they've ever sued anybody. I've always answered no but if they find out you sued a previous employer, I'm guessing that would be a reason they wouldn't hire you. So if you won a lawsuit, it better pay enough for you to live on for the rest of your life because you may not be able to get another job.

  • 1
    I'm extremely puzzled how an answer posted after the update to the question with this text in it "The agreement is NOT between the company and a third party" doesn't take it into account.
    – Joshua
    Commented Jun 25 at 16:40
  • 1
    FWIW, I too have had issues with over-broad Intellectual Property clauses in contracts; strictly interpreted, they would have given the company all rights in my holiday snaps, private comments on social media, music I wrote, even software I wrote on my own time and kit completely unrelated to the company's business.  As mentioned in another comment, in each case this was from prospective (not current) employers, small-to-medium-sized companies.  (contd…)
    – gidds
    Commented Jun 26 at 12:51
  • 1
    …So I replied, calmly outlining my concerns and suggesting wording tweaks that would address them (such as adding ‘…on company time or using company equipment…’), and in each case they very quickly sent me an amended contract, which I happily signed.  — However, the Intellectual Property clauses in my last couple of employment contracts have been much more reasonable, and I've not needed to request amendments.  Common sense seems to be prevailing!
    – gidds
    Commented Jun 26 at 12:52
  • @Joshua Because my answer did not address anything about whether the agreement was with the company or a third party. Does that matter? Yes. But I didn't go into it because I didn't think it was the primary issue, and my answer was already long enough.
    – Jay
    Commented Jun 28 at 9:56
  • @gidds Yes. I'd happily agree to something saying the company owns anything I produce on company time or using company equipment. I'd even be agreeable to something like "relevant to the company's business". But I refused to sign agreements saying "any software I developed of any sort whatsoever whether on or off company time and whether or not using company equipment, while employed at the company and for 5 years thereafter". That pretty clearly says that, (a) I can't start a side business, and (b) I am not allowed to get another job for five years after I leave. Sorry, but no.
    – Jay
    Commented Jun 28 at 10:00

Does that training platform require you to provide them your real identity they verify and link to you as a real person? Or can you register using a burner e-mail address or phone number? If no real identity is required, then you can create a burner account (or use the training platform from a virtual environment if you fear them having become a spyware), so even if the new ToS allows them to use your personal data in unscrupulous ways, your real identity won't be compromised.

I did that when my company required us to install a certain popular instant messaging app, which has it in its ToS that they retain the right to use my phone number to basically send any arbitrary sms messages in my name to anyone on my contact list without any direct authorization from me, and that they can use my contact list in whatever way they want, and place calls and send messages in my name however they wish. This was unacceptable for me, but most people were fine with it, because "they never did that". So I risked being the only one who was "too finicky", but solved the issue by installing that app with a burner phone number and a contact list which did not include anyone except the required company contacts.

  • 2
    -- Answer invalidated by update to question -- The T&C here aren't normal website T&C but an effective change to the employment contract itself.
    – Joshua
    Commented Jun 25 at 16:37

If that were the case, it would mean that a contract could stipulate that one must accept new stipulations in the future.

In fact it's characteristic of employment that the employer can make the rules up as they go along.

Of course the judges will limit this at the extreme, but the basic position is that the employer has the right to direct the work to be done in any lawful way they choose.

It's also normal that you might be expected to enter into reasonable contractual relations in a personal capacity in order to discharge your duties.

If you travel as a salesman, and you go into a shop to buy yourself a sausage roll at dinner time, it's not reasonable to think the seller will necessarily be prepared to acknowledge you as an agent of your employer in the transaction (let alone your own employer's attitude). The seller will just say he is prepared to deal with you as the man in front of him, take it or leave it on those terms.

Similarly with the bus driver or the train guard, he will say you buy the ticket and agree personally to the terms of carriage, or get off.

So the principle is that your employer can effectively coerce you into entering contracts - which indeed are documents that are ultimately dictated by other business bosses.

If your employer took disciplinary action, the legitimacy of the action would ultimately depend on the detail of the contract you were refusing to enter, and whether that refusal was reasonable in the context.

It wouldn't be considered reasonable to flatly refuse all contractual relations on principle.

I'm not interested in the possibility of finding out through a potential completely uneven court case (I'm a shop worker with almost no resources, they are a company run by lawyers).

Unfortunately the nature of the dispute you are about to join, would come down to lawyering and court cases one way or another.

  • 5
    If you dig into it, in a lot of these examples, legally, you as an employee are not necessarily entering into a contract. In the case of the salesman or the bus ticket, the company is agreeing to the conditions of buying a ticket, with you as their agent. This does matter for for tax law and negligence cases. For example, if you are driving and you damage someones vehicle, can they go after the company for the cost of repairs? Turns out, in a lot of cases if you are driving in the course of your work, they can. Commented Jun 25 at 0:20
  • 2
    More specifically to software, its very hard to go after employees for license violations on company owned equipment. But companies can be sued for license infringements made by employees that they didn't even ask the employees to do. Commented Jun 25 at 0:21
  • 1
    @user1937198, that is not generally the case. If it was a sale of goods to an agent for a so-called undisclosed principal, then the agent is liable to the seller as well as the principal being liable. In other cases, the contract may make no sense in relation to a corporation, and is clearly intended to bind the individual user - for example, if you contract to keep your feet off the seats. Your line of thought about road accidents is based on vicarious employer liability in tort - a different thing entirely. (1/2)
    – Steve
    Commented Jun 25 at 12:53
  • 1
    The basic principle is that the counterparty has to know and agree to you acting as the agent for your employer (knowledge and agreement can be implied) - if they do not agree, or if they have no reason to think you are an agent, then you are bound personally. (2/2)
    – Steve
    Commented Jun 25 at 12:53

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