The situation is as follows:
- The company I'm currently working at has been providing for a couple years now a "certification reward". Being an IT company it obviously values having certified employees in different fields (web development, databases, SAP etc.) so it offers to repay the application fees after an employee passes any certification from their list of pre-approved ones. When you do it you additionality get a small salary raise (25-50 US$ in my countries' currency).
- Certifications however usually cost 200 US$ or upwards and require additional costs such as traveling, as I live in a big country with very few online test centers where you can take tests like these. Needless to say very few people can afford that (the average salary in the company is around 400 US$) so in our unit there's maybe 5 certified employees out of 100.
- As our market is very aggressive and the company wants to differentiate itself, management now decided everyone needs to have at least one certification. Meetings were called to make the rules clear and the deadline is 4 months from now (2 months for team leaders). Some don't even have a choice as to which certification to pursue, and are facing the idea of paying, for example, 1000 US$ now to take the Zend certification because they were hired to work with PHP. They will only get the application fees back when they pass, remember.
- It was explicitly said that trainees won't be hired unless they do it, and it was heavily implied, although management couldn't say it out loud due to strict workplace regulations in the country, that those without certifications after the deadline will be undesirable for the company.
- It is a company with more than a thousand employees, and it's no stranger to massive layoffs.
How to react in a situation like that? Is it even appropriate what they're doing?