Authors: Gizem Ak, Merve Gündeş, Ceren Hilal Günaydın


The scenario in which employers provide various specialized training to employees due to the exigencies of the job and incur various expenses to facilitate employee participation in courses and seminars is a frequently encountered practice. In such cases, it is quite normal for the employer not to desire the termination of the employment contract by the employee without reaping the benefits of the financial resources allocated for the employee's training, and to endeavor to prevent such an outcome.

Within this framework, existing legal regulations afford the possibility of incorporating a minimum working commitment into employment contracts and prescribing penal sanctions for cases where the employment contract is terminated for reasons attributable to the employee. However, the limits of this minimum working commitment and penal sanction amount have been determined through prevailing decisions of the Court of Cassation. In this regard, it becomes necessary to clarify the legislative perspective and the Court of Cassation's stance on the matter.

Primarily, concerning the stipulation of a minimum working period, while an arrangement may be included in the employment contract, it must not infringe upon the employee's personal rights or render it impossible for the employee to enter into contracts with other employers. Thus, it is important that such a duration remains equitable, reasonable, and proportionate.

In evaluating the validity of penalty clauses foreseen in return for education, the Court of Cassation additionally seeks equilibrium between the education provided to the employee and the sum the employee is required to reimburse. Indeed, prevailing jurisprudence does not permit the employer to demand an amount exceeding the costs incurred in education. Consequently, during the determination of the penal clause amount stipulated in the contract, consideration must be given to the expenses incurred for each staff member. Provisions of penal sanctions exceeding these expenses may not be deemed valid, and in the event the employer demands the penal sanction from the employee in the future, the court may reduce the stipulated penal amount established in the contract and issue a penal sanction of a different amount, commensurate with the expenses borne by that employee, or as determined by the judge's discretion.

Furthermore, in the event that the demand for such penal sanction arises from the employee and becomes subject to legal proceedings, it becomes imperative that the education-related expenditure items are meticulously recorded in the personnel files of each employee as individualized costs. Therefore, even if an aggregated invoicing is performed for these expenditure items, the education expense incurred by each employee, accounting for the number of beneficiaries, should be itemized and proportionately allocated in the personnel file. This procedure necessitates the employees' endorsement of documents attesting to their participation in the education, and the preservation of all such documents and certificates signed by the employees, as they are of critical importance in substantiating education expenses before a court.

Moreover, the education expenses indicated for each employee are calculated individually by proportionally accounting for the duration of employment and non-employment of the employee. The Court of Cassation evaluates the periods the employee has worked as indicative of the compensation received by the employer for the education expenses borne. Hence, in determining the reduction amount, the court may prorate the education expenses incurred by the employer by accounting for the proportion of the time an employee worked to the committed minimum working period.

In Conclusion:

  Ø It is conceivable to stipulate a penal clause ensuring the employee's commitment to work for a minimum period in exchange for education. Nevertheless, the designated minimum working period posited by the employer must remain equitable and proportionate.

  Ø Furthermore, prevailing jurisprudence prohibits the employer from demanding an amount from the employee exceeding the education expenses incurred. 

  ØThus, should penal clauses exceeding education expenses be included in the employment contract, the court, when determining the penal clause amount, retains the discretion to reduce the amount stipulated in the contract by proportionally assessing the education expenses incurred for each employee.