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It’s Payback Time. Or Is It?

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In a candidate-driven market, where part-qualified accountants are in high demand, retention of them has moved up the corporate agendas of those employers guiding them through qualification. As well as the usual incentives used to keep valued staff, one sneakier retention tool is a clawback fee – an amount in the employee’s contract that covers the 2-3 years of tutoring, materials and time off for study, should they leave the employer before qualifying.

Some of the best PQ candidates out there can be understandably de-incentivised from making pre-qualification career moves as a result, feeling sometimes that they are hostages to their employers. So, should they stay where they are purely because of the study fees they might owe or should other employers do more to encourage them to seize an opportunity and join them instead?

Attracting the PQ’s

One of the main things to remember about part-qualified accountants is that they are very time poor. They have a demanding job on top of studying, so don’t have time to waste. With that in mind, any prospective employer’s recruitment process needs to be slick, gearing everything towards the candidate experience. It’s also crucial that the job has more than just a good description and salary. For a PQ to move, they will want to see genuine career progression opportunities, as well as some attractive benefits that might help them reclaim some work/life balance towards and after qualification. Study support under the supervision and mentorship of qualified accountants could also be a deciding factor. For a particularly top level candidate, some employers might even pay off the clawback fee on behalf of the candidate, or offer to as a long-term loan deductible from their new salary. 

Don’t let the money stop you

Given the fees demanded can sometimes be considerable, many PQ’s are put off if there isn’t the option of a new employer picking up the bill. If you want to avoid the fees, self-study is an option, although it does have its own costs, for course materials, and there can be risks involved. Without a tutor or mentor, you will need to confirm that you are fulfilling all the requirements of each stage of the qualification, as well as making sure you can set aside enough time outside of your job to complete the work. While it is of course a cheaper and more flexible option, the responsibility is entirely on the candidate, which can add more pressure to your studies. 

The amount owed also may not be as much as you think and most employers will agree a payment plan to pay back the outstanding amount owed monthly over a period of time rather than in one lump sum. Many candidates aren’t aware of the actual numbers, just anecdotal evidence of vast sums, or that there is something in their contract about paying back fees. Any good employer should have a clear contract, with nothing discretional or cloudy to catch you out. Some have a sliding scale, depending on far along with your studies you are, others have flat fees that should be transparent. If it’s not clear, you should also be able to speak to HR in absolute confidence about any contractual queries, and whether you go on to leave your position there or not, your enquiries should never leave their office.

If you are a part-qualified accountant considering a move, or would like some advice on taking the next step in your career, contact us today.