Exit fees: The documents FDM etc. don’t want you to see

A GROWING NUMBER OF UK FIRMS are charging large exit fees (of up to £25,500) to graduates who quit their programmes in less than two years. We think the practice is highly unethical and has no place in any reputable UK company. People (especially young people) make mistakes and jobs don’t always work out. But locking people into roles they want to leave is unacceptable – especially when it disproportionately impacts those from poorer backgrounds, who are the least likely to be able to buy their way out.

Here is the evidence that Graduate Fog has collected, relating to FDM Group, Kubrick, QA Consulting, Sparta Global, Ten10, Revolent, Geeks Limited and IT Works MiTec, who charge exit fees ranging from £9,000 to £25,500, despite paying fairly low graduate salaries of around £20-30,000. These companies won’t want you to see these documents, but we think you need to – especially if you work for a company that is a client of theirs, as you are currently complicit in these graduates’ misery (sorry). Ask yourself: “Does the way they do business align with our firm’s values?”

Let’s start with FDM Group – who we first encountered back in 2018, when we learned they were sending out terrifying invoices and letters demanding up £18,000 from graduates, payable within just 14 days (yes, really). Their departing graduates could also brace themselves not to receive their final month’s salary, as this was often kept as a sort of part-payment towards the fees that that FDM insisted were due. As you look at the documents below, don’t forget that FDM Group is on the board of the Institute of Student Employers, regularly wins awards for diversity, and is valued at over £1 BILLION…

According to more recent documents shown to Graduate Fog by FDM graduates desperate to escape the company (including the below, dated July 2021, from a graduate currently trapped there), the fees charged to departing graduates now seem to have reduced from £18,000 to £15,000. However, you will see that this sum still due within 14 days of FDM confirming the amount that is owed. Remember, the recipients of these documents are typically 22 years old. When asked why he didn’t show his FDM contract to a parent or solicitor before signing, one graduate (also currently stuck at FDM, and desperate to get out) recently told us he didn’t know he was allowed to, as the contract was stated as being strictly between him and FDM. That’s how vulnerable these young people are.

YES, THIS IS STILL HAPPENING! Wondering why we don’t have more recent invoices and letters? We understand that many graduates now are being asked to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) when they leave some of these companies, limiting how much paperwork they can share with journalists and campaigners – a worrying sign in itself. Sadly, the number of emails we receive from graduates suffering because of exit fees has increased (not decreased) in this time, and these are the company names that continue to come up. We have given all seven of these companies the chance to correct us if these figures have changed since these documents were created, but none has yet replied.

Paying £32,000 once graduates finish their training, Kubrick’s is the most generous graduate salary among these firms. However, their exit fees are among the highest – asking graduates to pay up to £19,800 if they leave in less than two years. But that’s not even the worst part… This sum appears to be due in full on the final day of the graduate’s employment (see 19.3). This contract is from 2019:

 

QA Consulting charge £12,000 in exit fees when graduates leave, even though they only pay their graduates £23,500 per year. This sum appears to be due immediately (see point 11). This contract is from July 2021:


Sparta Global appear to charge graduates up to £24,000 in exit fees when they leave, payable within six months of their departure. The graduates are paid £23,000 per year while working at Sparta. Could you afford to quit your job, if you were going to be charged that amount? This document is from 2018. We have requested a more recent contract but they have not provided one:

 

Revolent (part of Frank Recruitment Group) appears to be a fairly new player – we have only started receiving complaints about them recently. They appear to charge graduates up to £18,000 if they quit in less than two years. They also have one of the most outrageously restrictive policies on social media use that we have ever seen! This contract is from 2020:

DIVERSE – OR DEVIOUS? Revolent seem sure that they are champions for diversity – but we are not convinced…

 

Leeds-based tech firm Ten10 charges up to £9,000 when their graduates leave. This may not sound too bad – but at just six weeks, the training programme is one of the shortest. Plus, they only pay an annual salary of £15,500-24,000. It is unclear when the sum is due. This contract is from 2018. We have requested a more recent contract but they have not provided one:

 

London-based tech firm Geeks Ltd charge £12,000 to graduates who leave their scheme in less than two years – despite only paying their graduates £20,000 per year (rising to £30,000 after six months). Oddly, they position their scheme as ‘apprenticeship’ – albeit a ‘premium’ (!) one – even though properly accredited apprenticeships are usually free for young people, as all the sources we have found say that employers should fund them. This document is from 2019. We have requested a more recent contract but they have not provided one:



And finally… Preston-based IT firm IT Works Mitec win the prize for the highest exit fees – charging their graduates up to £25,500 if they quit in less than two years. The graduate who provided this document was paid an annual salary of £22,500. The document is dated 2015:


* DO YOU HAVE SHOCKING PAPERWORK FROM THESE FIRMS – OR ANY OTHERS THAT CHARGE HIGH EXIT FEES?
Contact us here. We’re collecting as much as possible, to build our case that exit fees are unethical and must be stopped. All correspondence will be in the strictest confidence – we know how scary it can feel to be on the wrong side of these companies, but it’s high time we stand up to them…

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