A graduate who paid £14,520 in ‘exit fees’ in order to escape a job he realised was a mistake has written to his former employer asking for his money back. He cites the fact that he was given less than five hours to check and sign his contract before he joined, and was in poor mental health at the time he left and agreed to pay the huge fees he was told were due in just 20 days.

As published previously on Graduate Fog, Kubrick Group — whose clients include HSBC, Sainsbury’s, AstraZeneca, John Lewis and Deliveroo — charge fees of up to £19,800 to graduates who leave their scheme in less than two years. They claim this is to cover the cost of the training they provide, but participants say the training is poor quality, and most of it can be found for free online, or at a cost of no more than a few hundred pounds.

The bill (dated 7 June 2021) received by this graduate — who we’ll call Tom — was only (!) £14,520, as he completed 11 of Kubrick’s 15 weeks’ training programme. Had he completed the full training, £19,800 would have been due. He has shared his story exclusively with Graduate Fog, and agreed that we can publish the shocking correspondence between him and Kubrick, as part of our campaign to Stop Exit Fees By Xmas.

Tom, who is 24, and had an accounting and finance degree from the London School of Economics, told Graduate Fog:

“I realised after eight weeks that Kubrick’s programme wasn’t for me. At the same time, I sensed a decline in my mental health — not helped by the realisation that I had made a mistake with this scheme, and the pressure I felt knowing I had to make my decision fast, as the bill for my training would be racking up by the day.”

By week 10, Tom decided he wanted to leave, and told Kubrick of his decision. The documents below show that Kubrick held on to Tom’s (small) final salary payment of £538.46, and the holiday pay he had accrued (£307.69), demanding that Tom must pay the remaining balance of £13,673.85 — which he did, on 29 June 2021.

Even after Tom had agreed to pay the bill in full, Kubrick insisted that he sign a letter confirming that he would never speak publicly about the payment, a document which could be viewed as a form of NDA (non-disclosure agreement).

READ IT AND WEEP This is the bill Kubrick sent to Tom, for 10 weeks of their (crummy) training. At the time, he was in poor mental health, so he paid the whole thing.

IS THIS AN NDA? It looks like one to us – although it’s unclear why Kubrick felt they had a right to silence Tom, when they had conceded nothing, as he’d agreed to pay the full amount.


TIGHT Having charged Tom £14,520, Kubrick offered to reimburse him for the postage costs for him to return his laptop – as long as the cost was ‘appropriate’. Wow, such generosity…


However, now that Tom is feeling stronger — and, having sought legal advice — he has decided to ignore this NDA, instead choosing to challenge Kubrick publicly over their conduct, by sharing his story on Graduate Fog.

In his letter to Kubrick — emailed to them this morning — Tom writes:

To: Kubrick Group
From: Kubrick graduate
Date: 15 December 2021
Subject: Please give my money back

I am writing to request that you refund the sum of £14,520, the bulk of which I paid to Kubrick Consulting on 29/06/21 after leaving your graduate programme.

I now regret making the payment, and I believe that Kubrick’s conduct leading up to it was unreasonable and unethical on the following grounds:

1. I was given less than half a day to sign and return my employment contract — it was emailed to me at 12.17pm on Friday 12 March 2021 and I understood that I must return it by the end of that day, in order for me to start my training on Monday 15 March 2021. This was the first time I had been made aware of the scale of the fees that would be due if I left Kubrick early, and this was not enough time for me to consider the implications and risks of this properly, let alone to seek legal advice.

2. I was in poor mental health when I left Kubrick and agreed to make this payment, and desperate to end my time with your company – something Kubrick was aware of. As evidence of my desperation to sever ties with Kubrick immediately, I point to the fact that I declined your offer to make the payment in instalments. Had I been thinking clearly, I would have accepted that offer – but I wasn’t. Had I done so, it is likely that I would only have ended up making a few small payments before realising that I never owed you the money at all.

3. I strongly dispute that the charges reflect the value of the training that I received from Kubrick. Having done my own research, I now believe the true value is more likely to be around a few hundred pounds and that this is a cost that Kubrick should have covered, as any decent employer would, for a short period of compulsory training for new graduates.

I handed over £14,520 to you at one of the worst moments of my life — a sum that was essentially my entire life savings. Please give it back.

I look forward to hearing from you.

[Name removed by Graduate Fog]

PS. You will see that I have Cc’d Tanya de Grunwald, founder of Graduate Fog, in to this email. She is aware of all the details of my story, and has viewed all the correspondence we have exchanged. This letter will also be published on Graduate Fog, along with other correspondence between me and Kubrick. I realise that in doing this, I am ignoring the contents of your letter dated 7 June 2021, which insists that I must never speak publicly about my payment to Kubrick Group.

However, having sought legal advice, it is unclear to me why you felt it was reasonable to insist on my silence, when you had conceded nothing on your side. I therefore have nothing to lose by ignoring that request now. I feel it is important for people to know how Kubrick Group operates, not only by charging these fees, but also by insisting that graduates don’t tell anyone what you are doing behind closed doors.

Although I know you will be unhappy with what I am doing, sharing my story publicly does not change any of the facts about my case, as referenced in points 1-3 above, so should not be relevant to your agreement to repay me the £14,520 that you owe me.

Pretty punchy isn’t it? Tanya de Grunwald, founder of Graduate Fog, says:

“I am delighted that Tom has decided to challenge Kubrick’s conduct, and to ask for his £14,520 back. This is a huge amount of money, and I cannot see how they can possibly justify this cost for 10 weeks of training.

“In doing this, Tom is standing up for every graduate who has suffered as a result of ‘exit fees’. It is not right that companies like Kubrick — and FDM and Sparta — are using such heavy-handed contracts to trap graduates in jobs they want to leave.

“Tom’s case is extreme — as he was given so little time to consider his contract, and he was in poor health when he left. But even without those factors, Kubrick’s conduct is disgusting. Jobless graduates are not in a position to question exit fees contracts, and they take employers at their word that the training they’ll receive will be of the high standard promised.”

Graduate Fog is now writing to Kubrick’s clients (listed below) to make them aware of Tom’s story, and asking how this supplier’s conduct fits with their own stated values, and commitments to social mobility and diversity. We will also urge these clients to accept a share of the responsibility for the wellbeing of these graduates even though – strictly speaking – they are contractors working for Kubrick:

De Grunwald said:

“These revelations about Kubrick’s conduct will make uncomfortable reading for their clients – but it is vital that we involve them in these discussions. Although this work is outsourced – by AstraZeneca, HSBC, Deliveroo, John Lewis and many more – the responsibility cannot be.

“These graduates are working on projects for these clients, often on their premises. And graduates regularly tell me that when they felt alarmed to see the exit fees clause in their contract, they feel reassured by the calibre of the clients of these firms, and excited by the opportunity to work for them. So, the clients have actually been part of the ‘sell’ for a long time, whether they knew it or not.

“What has changed is that, until recently, most of these clients could claim to be unaware of how these suppliers were operating (except for HSBC, who have known for two years). They could say they had no idea that the graduates contractors they were ‘buying in’ (yuck) were not free to leave. However, now that we have published the damning documents exposing this, along with stories like Tom’s it will be impossible for the client firms to continue to turn a blind eye, as they cannot claim to be unaware of what is happening. 

“I look forward to seeing how Kubrick respond to Tom’s letter, especially now that they know that their clients are watching, and worrying that their own reputation is at risk by association. Which, frankly, it is.”


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