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Who should be responsible for paying for job-related training is a question that doesn’t have an easy answer. While employers and employees will usually point to the other party, who picks up the tab depends a lot on the circumstances.

THE CRUX OF THE ISSUE

Is it an employer’s responsibility to pay? Many people would say yes, especially if it’s directly job-related. In some cases, employers will be mandated by the law to pay for certain types of programs their employees participate in. But in other cases, whether or not the course is directly job-related becomes an issue, or it may be that the employee decides to participate in job-related training—but on their own time. Who pays if an employee takes an evening course on their own time to learn a new skill that helps them in the office?

WHEN THE EMPLOYER SHOULD PAY

Some legislation, such as human rights codes, mandates that employers must pay employees for particular kinds of training. If you have a new hire, then you are responsible for wages for the time they spend going over HR codes of conducts. If a course is mandatory for employees to retain credentials or licenses, or if it is required by the employer, then you’ll be expected to pay for the employees’ participation. Employers may also opt to send employees to complete courses in First Aid or CPR, although these skills don’t directly relate to the job.

The essential rule of thumb to follow here is that if the program is not voluntary—that is, if employees are obligated to go—then the employer should pick up the tab.

WHEN THE EMPLOYEE SHOULD PAY

If employers pay when courses and programs are directly related to an employee’s job or regulated by law, then it follows that employees are going to pay when the training is not relevant to their job or regulated by law. Employees that want to pursue personal interests will have to do so on their own dime—and, often, their own time. Even when a course is directly related to someone’s job, the employer can opt not to pay for it if the classes are outside of work hours, such as in the evening or on weekends, and if it would be considered voluntary.

If the employee can choose to attend the training or not, then it follows that the employee should be paying for the pursuit.

WHEN THINGS GET MURKY

Of course, things aren’t always clear-cut, and there will be situations where it seems appropriate for either the employer or the employee to pay. Take, for example, voluntary programs that an employer offers, but the employees feel that if they don’t participate, they’ll be passed over for promotions, raises, or other recognition. In that case, even though the program is billed as voluntary, it is mandatory—and the employer should pay.

In other cases, employers may opt to pay for training that isn’t necessarily job-related or that is completed on the employee’s own time. The context of the situation is very important when deciding who will foot the bill in these cases. If the employer feels that a course is job-related and could improve the employee’s job prospects, then they may opt to pay for night school, for example.

BENEFITS AND CO-PAYMENTS

While some training—such as legislated human rights programs—must be paid for by the employer, other types may be covered by an employee’s benefits. In some cases, an employer may have a co-pay plan in place, where the employer and employee will share the cost of participation.

Felicia Smith

Felicia is the manager of human capital solutions at AugmentHR. With over six years of recruitment experience coupled with multi-faceted HR roles, Felicia is an expert in matching people with the right role and environment. She has worked in many different industries, including investment banking, HR consulting firms, medical, and commercial. Understanding people is one of her strengths, and she has recruited at every level, from directors, project managers, and engineers to operators and general labourers. Her ability to network and develop relationships has been a key tool to her success. With approximately two years of experience managing people and creating a positive work environment, Felicia’s diverse skill set makes her a well-rounded individual. Her business education and background help her identify different business needs and human capital solutions.

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