Employment law advice regarding a pre-reg contract change after furlough

Newly qualified optometrist Helena’s story

What happened

Photo pending

Helena (not her real name) has recently qualified and has been practising as a registered optometrist for less than a year. She had previously signed a pre-registration contract with her employer and under the terms of her sponsorship agreement, was subject to a 12-month tie in following registration.

Helena was furloughed for four months in 2020, and then was asked to sign a variation to her contract whereby she reduced her working hours from five days to two days a week.

Following this, she then entered into discussions with her employer about looking for an additional job, so that she could make up the other three days she was now not working for the practice.

Her employer tried to argue that her tie in period effectively re-started when she returned from furlough and that it would be extended by four months. If this were the case, the requirement to re-pay her training fees could have been triggered by Helena taking on a second job.

Helena got in touch with the AOP employment team for advice.

How we helped

We advised her to go back to her employer and inform them that an extension of her contracted tie in period required her agreement in writing, which she had not given.

The outcome

Helena’s employer agreed that her tie in period ran from the date she was registered for 12-months. They also agreed that she could look for another job for three days a week and that if she accepted a job offer for those three days, while continuing to work for the practice for the two days under her amended terms, the requirement to repay any training fees would not be triggered.