Worker whose boss asked for $888 for training: I just want my wages

March 23, 2019

A woman in New Zealand on a working holiday has been left outraged after being asked to pay $888 to cover the costs of on-the-job waitressing training.


HR Matters Tip:

Ensure you record training conducted in an individual training log. Training not only up-skills employees for your businesses benefit, but further aids in retaining great staff. 

The worker, who does not want to be identified, worked for a month and a week at Johnny Barr, in Auckland.


When she resigned, she was told that, instead of getting her final holiday pay, the company was going to take it, to cover the cost of training her for the position.


It was calculated that she was owed $659 in holiday pay. But the business owner told her she owed $888.84 for 49.38 hours of training - leaving her a deficit of $229.


"They said because they were happy with what I did they were happy to deduct half that which would mean they would only pay me out $215."


She was told if she did not accept that offer the only option would be to go to formal mediation and split the costs.

But she is now in Queenstown and wants to put the episode behind her.



"I don't know why this is such a drama. I just want my wages I'm entitled to."



She said she did not receive any specific training and had gone straight into the job. She had six years' experience in bars and restaurants. "The job was simple, bringing food to the table with the number on it."


She said she started working before she saw an employment contract. 


Johnny Barr director Ramy Abu-Yousef said the business sought to recover training costs in "rare" circumstances.


"We have extensive discussions with all staff at least three times prior to their offer of employment explaining that we only have interest in hiring staff that will commit to a six- month period with us, that we spend a significant amount of time and money on training, which is useful to them outside of their employment with us, and that in the case that they wish to leave prior to the six-month period that we would like to recover some of those expenses depending on the circumstances."


Abu-Yousef said if someone left because of events outside their control, costs would not be recovered.


"If the departure was to take employment elsewhere in a similar role where the training they received would be useful for that employment, then we would be entitled to deduct a portion.  Once this test has been met, we visit the second factor.


"The second factor is the amount of time worked and making a reasonable determination of what is a fair deduction.  At three months, we deduct at most 50 per cent of training expenses.  At four months, 25 per cent, at five months 10 per cent and at six months 0 per cent. Prior to three months, we are entitled to recover the full amount of training expenses but have never done so.


"We believe our practices are not only legal, but extremely reasonable and fair.


"We treat our employees with an incredible amount of respect and appreciation. We pay above market wages – most of our staff that have been with us for over six months, earn at least $25 per hour, we assess and give raises on a monthly basis, we offer additional training and outside courses at our expense for staff who wish to advance in their roles, we regularly sit down and speak with staff members to see how things are going, we give regular bonuses for good work, and most of our staff have been with us for several years as a result."


The two parties are now planning mediation.

But employment lawyer Susan Hornbsy-Geluk, of Dundas Street Employment Lawyers said while employers could come to agreements with staff in relation to external training, on-the-job training was a different matter.


"It is unlikely that an employer could justify making a deduction for this. This would amount to an unlawful premium for employment, in breach of the Wages Protection Act."  


Chloe King, who runs Raise the Bar, a campaign calling for better conditions for hospitality workers, said it was not the first time she had heard of people in a similar situation. She said she would receive a call "every other day" from workers who had had their wages withheld.


Many people did not understand the rights they had as employees, she said.


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