I often encounter questions in my practice about when and how employers can support their employees in their education and whether employees can be contractually bound to stay with the employer. The answer is yes. But only under the conditions set forth by law. The first thing is to designate whether the intended study programme falls under improving existing qualifications or increasing (i.e. acquiring new) qualifications. This determines whether the employee is obliged to do so and who bears the related costs.
Improving existing qualifications is expected
All employees are expected to continue improving their qualifications to perform their work on an ongoing basis. Improving qualifications also includes maintaining and renewing them as needed. Participating in training or other forms of preparation or studies in order to improve qualifications is classified under performance of work for which the employee is entitled to a salary. The employer bears the costs for improving the employee’s qualifications. If the employee requests to improve the qualifications in a more costly form, the employee can share in the costs involved. The Labour Code does not define the line between normal and more costly forms.
Increasing qualifications is extra
Increasing qualifications means a change in value, acquiring or expanding qualifications. This can mean studies, education, training or other forms of preparation to reach a higher level of education, if in compliance with the employer’s needs. The employee is not required to increase qualifications, but may do so by agreement with the employer, who may provide the employee with leave from work in cases stipulated under the Labour Code. The employee and employer can also come to an agreement going beyond what is stipulated in the law.
Agreement on qualifications
The employer and employee can enter into an agreement on qualifications wherein the employer undertakes to enable the employee to increase the qualifications and the employee undertakes to remain with the employer for a certain period of time, no more than five years, or to reimburse the costs associated with the increase in qualifications. The commitment to remain with the employer begins at the time of increasing the qualification. An agreement on qualifications can also be made for improving qualifications, but only if the anticipated costs amount to CZK 75,000 or more. In that case the employee is not obliged to improve the qualifications, but may do so upon agreement with the employer.