Childcarer forced to repay $12k to employer

By Brendan Manning

Ms O'Meara began work at ABC in 2007. Photo / Thinkstock
Ms O'Meara began work at ABC in 2007. Photo / Thinkstock

A childcare worker has been ordered to repay training fees to her employer after failing to hold up her end of the bargain.

Rebecca O'Meara was told by the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) to pay back almost $12,000 to ABC Developmental Learning Centres after withdrawing early from a return of service agreement (ROS).

Ms O'Meara started working for ABC in Queenstown centre as an unqualified teacher in June 2007.

She was encouraged by the ABC South Island area manager to become a qualified teacher and was advised of the company's return of service scheme.

According to the terms of the agreement, ABC would "incur the costs of practicum and study fees," and Ms O'Meara would complete two years of work after finishing.

In the event she did not do so, she would be obliged to repay all study costs incurred by the company.

Ms O'Meara completed her graduate teaching diploma at Auckland University in April 2009, after which her ROS began.

Authority member Michael Loftus found that "completion of the course led to both promotion to a qualified teacher and a significant pay rise for Ms O'Meara".

In April 2010 she resigned from ABC and repaid what she believed she owed at the time, almost $5000.

ABC disputed the amount, stating she had not taken into account wages she received while absent on practicums and while attending block courses, and the company said she owed $11,987.67.

Ms O'Meara disputed the amount of wages she was obliged to repay, contending the portion of her wages that went to Inland Revenue as PAYE.

She said she should have to pay back only the net amount, as that was the amount she had received.

The ERA determination said: "Unfortunately for Ms O'Meara this is not about fairness - it is about the application of an agreement she freely entered into for reasons she saw as advantageous at the time."


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