OUTSOURCING GIANT CAPITA BLASTED FOR CONTRACTS THAT LOCK GRADUATES IN TO JOBS THEY HATE
* LOOK! WE’VE BEEN QUOTED IN THE GUARDIAN *
Sometimes, a new job just doesn’t work out. But a growing number of graduates are finding themselves locked in to roles with firms they desperately want to leave but can’t – because they’ll be sent a bill for up to £21,000.
Their employers claim they’re clawing back money invested in flighty youngsters who couldn’t commit – but is it really okay to trap someone into a job they hate, by reminding them to expect a monster bill (payable immediately) if they leave?
We’re about to find out. Four recent graduates from UK universities are taking their employers to court over controversial ‘lock-in’ clauses which have resulted in them being chased for up to £18,000 of supposed training costs for leaving their employer after less than two years.
The graduates say many more people like them are still stuck in jobs they hate because they’re too scared to quit.
The story first hit headlines last year, when a Graduate Fog investigation into the Capita Novus scheme led to further revelations about contracts that new starters were required to sign.
The Guardian understands that at one point Capita – which provides services ranging from electronic tagging of offenders to store card services for retailers and the BBC licence fee collection – was charging graduates as much as £21,000 to be released from their scheme.
Meanwhile, another big outsourcing firm – FDM Group – has been sending graduates bills for £18,000 payable within 14 days (!), like this one dated as recently as March 2018:
The terrifying invoice arrived with this alarming letter:
Working with the Guardian over the last six months, Graduate Fog has collected stories from around ten graduates who said they were either locked into jobs they could not afford to leave, or who had left and were now being pressured to repay huge sums that their former employer claimed had been spent on their training. Four cases were clear-cut enough to take forward to the courts.
Knowing these companies have tough lawyers who fight hard, we have also ‘lawyered up’, securing the help of the Good Law Project, thanks to its founder (and bad-ass lawyer) Jolyon Maugham. The graduates’ barrister is Sean Jones QC, and their solicitors’ firm is Crowell and Moring.
“All of these graduates are operating in a kind of tied servitude. Tied for years to a faceless behemoth, working off an inflated debt on unfair terms, on something that looks less like a legitimate training scheme, and more like a clever way of hooking in the desperate or naive.
“But among the protections the law gives to us all is the right to work and make a living how and where we choose. It’s not an absolute right; the law balances against it an employer’s right to protect its legitimate interests. But here at the Good Law Project, we want to ask the courts to weigh it on the scales against indentured service for inflated training costs on unequal terms. We hope that the high court will declare these arrangements unlawful.
“This generation is already labouring under a burden of massive student debt, insecure employment and inflated house prices. It’s time to provide proper protection against rapacious employers.”
Graduate Fog’s founder Tanya de Grunwald also slammed the firms’ conduct, saying:
“This grotesque practice needs to die, now. It is the most disturbing development I have seen in the graduate market in the eight years I’ve been campaigning for fair jobs for young people.
“No-one should have to pay such a huge a penalty to leave a job they are unhappy in. Graduates are being terrorised into staying put, or hounded for money they’re told they owe if they leave. I’ve seen just a sample of the invoices and emails being sent out, and all three firms should be ashamed. This is no way for any reputable employer to behave.”
Needless to say, Graduate Fog will be watching this case closely over the next few weeks, so stay tuned for updates.
* SHOULD LOCK-IN CLAUSES BE BANNED?
Do you know someone currently trapped in a job they can’t afford to leave – or have you quit a graduate scheme and been chased for the training costs you supposedly owe? If this is the first you’ve heard about this practice, what is your reaction? Please share your views below…