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Old 12.11.2020, 10:46
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Help interpreting a pay back clause in sign off bonus

At the beginning of the year, I started work with my current employer, and part of the compensation was a sign off bonus.

Included in the statement about the bonus is the following clause:

"Sollen Sie von sich aus Ihren Anstellungsvertrag kuendigen oder im Falle einer fristlosen Kuendigung, besteht eine komplette Rueckerstatungspflicht des Sign Off Bonus waehrend 12 Monaten ab Beginn des Anstellungsverhaeltnisses"

Basically, "If you don't stay with us for 12 months, you have to pay the sign off bonus back" which is fair enough.

In the meantime, our department has been reorganized and our management has encouraged people to look around for other options so they can avoid laying people off at the end of the year.

I've found a great position with another company, and am getting the offer terms and start date worked out with them. I've informally told my management, and they're sad to see me go, but happy for me. We've started planning on me finishing out the year here before I go to my new position.

However, I'd very much like to avoid paying back my sign off bonus. My impression of our HR is that regardless of what my management says, they would seek to get the sign off bonus back if legally allowed.

Based on a general understanding, does the clause above refer to my last working day, or the day I announce my resignation?

I will probably talk to a lawyer, but thought I'd sound folks out here first.
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Old 12.11.2020, 10:59
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Re: Help interpreting a pay back clause in sign off bonus

In my view it would be the date of termination, not the date you give notice.

The general understanding of these clauses is that you have to work for the company for 12 months, which you will do.

Also note it is a sign on bonus, not a sign off bonus Only executives the company wants to go quietly get the latter
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Old 12.11.2020, 11:39
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Re: Help interpreting a pay back clause in sign off bonus

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In my view it would be the date of termination, not the date you give notice.

The general understanding of these clauses is that you have to work for the company for 12 months, which you will do.

Also note it is a sign on bonus, not a sign off bonus Only executives the company wants to go quietly get the latter
Thanks, this is my feeling too. I'll see if I can ping an attorney briefly to confirm, but this makes me feel a bit more sure of my interpretation.

Yeah, I thought the wording was strange as well, as I've always referred to it as a "sign on bonus." But the contract, which except for this phrase is all German, says "Sign Off Bonus"
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Old 12.11.2020, 11:41
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Re: Help interpreting a pay back clause in sign off bonus

Out of interest, what is the German word?
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Old 12.11.2020, 12:08
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Re: Help interpreting a pay back clause in sign off bonus

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Out of interest, what is the German word?
It's not written in German, it literally says "Sign Off Bonus" in the middle of a long phrase in German.
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Old 12.11.2020, 12:18
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Re: Help interpreting a pay back clause in sign off bonus

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Included in the statement about the bonus is the following clause:

"Sollen Sie von sich aus Ihren Anstellungsvertrag kuendigen oder im Falle einer fristlosen Kuendigung, besteht eine komplette Rueckerstatungspflicht des Sign Off Bonus waehrend 12 Monaten ab Beginn des Anstellungsverhaeltnisses"
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In my view it would be the date of termination, not the date you give notice.

The general understanding of these clauses is that you have to work for the company for 12 months, which you will do.

Also note it is a sign on bonus, not a sign off bonus Only executives the company wants to go quietly get the latter
The text seems to refer to the act of giving notice of termination, not the termination taking effect (i.e. after notice period). So you are within the 12 months.
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Old 12.11.2020, 12:25
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Re: Help interpreting a pay back clause in sign off bonus

My read is that you have to pay the bonus back if you quit before the first anniversary of your contract. Thus assuming you started on 1st January 2020 if you resign on or before 31st December 2020 you'd be liable to pay back the amount in full.

What you could also do is highlight this to your potential new employer and ask them to make good any losses should that happen. I know people who have done this when they have foregone a bonus due in the future and the new employer simply gives it as a signing on bonus.

Either way you should seek legal advice to be sure.
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Old 12.11.2020, 12:42
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Re: Help interpreting a pay back clause in sign off bonus

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At the beginning of the year, I started work with my current employer, and part of the compensation was a sign off bonus.

Included in the statement about the bonus is the following clause:

"Sollen Sie von sich aus Ihren Anstellungsvertrag kuendigen oder im Falle einer fristlosen Kuendigung, besteht eine komplette Rueckerstatungspflicht des Sign Off Bonus waehrend 12 Monaten ab Beginn des Anstellungsverhaeltnisses"
I read it as you can not hand in the resignation before the twelve months are up. The only safe options are that they give you a regular notice or if you negotiate a mutually agreed resignation agreement (Aufhebungsvereinbarung) where it is stated that you can keep the bonus.
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Old 12.11.2020, 13:07
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Re: Help interpreting a pay back clause in sign off bonus

OP, what is your notice period?

Presumably one month since you're talking about end of year.

Question then is - can OP quit on December 31st, to leave at the end of January, or is this still a problem for the bonus?

Or can they quit on 1st January, without pushing the notice period to end of February? Contractually not guaranteed I think, but this one you could almost certainly agree with your boss who sounds reasonable, and sounds to me like the best option if consensus is that otherwise your bonus is on shaky ground.
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Old 12.11.2020, 13:12
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Re: Help interpreting a pay back clause in sign off bonus

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The text seems to refer to the act of giving notice of termination, not the termination taking effect (i.e. after notice period). So you are within the 12 months.
Ok, sounds like I should speak to a lawyer then. Appreciate this!
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Old 12.11.2020, 13:14
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Re: Help interpreting a pay back clause in sign off bonus

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OP, what is your notice period?

Presumably one month since you're talking about end of year.

Question then is - can OP quit on December 31st, to leave at the end of January, or is this still a problem for the bonus?

Or can they quit on 1st January, without pushing the notice period to end of February? Contractually not guaranteed I think, but this one you could almost certainly agree with your boss who sounds reasonable, and sounds to me like the best option if consensus is that otherwise your bonus is on shaky ground.
The notice period is 3 months, but my management is willing to cut it to one. I've already told my management, but haven't made any official announcements.
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Old 12.11.2020, 15:56
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Re: Help interpreting a pay back clause in sign off bonus

Following up on this for the forum's future reference. The lawyer said the following:
"This refers to your last working day. At the moment the contract ends, at least 12 months must have passed. "
So I'm in the clear to officially announce my last day as the 1st of Jan.

Thanks for everyone's help.
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Old 12.11.2020, 16:04
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Re: Help interpreting a pay back clause in sign off bonus

Can you clarify if you have officially given notice in writing?

1) Before you give notice officially, ask HR what the exact language means. When I moved here in 2016 from London my employer paid for my relocation. In my contract I was required to pay that back (pro-rata) if I left within the first 12 months. I started in February, resigned in September, and worked until December (3 month notice) and had to pay back 1/12th of the allowance.

2) If you are required to pay back the money, ask your new employer if they would consider making the payment. I have no clue what industry you work in but in some industries it is not uncommon for a new employer to make someone whole for a lost bonus or exam fees or training programs.

3) Lesson learned.....the company only cares about itself...never give "unofficial notice" or do anything that gives your employer any additional leverage over you. In this case you were probably trying to be nice by giving them a heads-up, and in return they will likely slap you with a deduction from your last pay for the money owed.
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Old 12.11.2020, 16:43
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Re: Help interpreting a pay back clause in sign off bonus

Often these type of clauses have a section that says if you are terminated without fault on your side by the company the allowance doesn‘t have to be repaid. Is there nothing like that in yours, as it might be possible to come to a compromise with your line management?

I think I also had a clause that said if they terminated me without cause within the first year, they would pay for repatriation. Maybe you also have some leverage there?
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Old 12.11.2020, 16:54
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Re: Help interpreting a pay back clause in sign off bonus

The OP already has his answer from a lawyer - he's OK as long as the end of his working period (not the points he gives notice) is the full 12 months.

And I assume if this is formal legal advice, OP also has some protection if the lawyer is wrong (?)
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Old 12.11.2020, 17:14
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Re: Help interpreting a pay back clause in sign off bonus

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Following up on this for the forum's future reference. The lawyer said the following:
"This refers to your last working day. At the moment the contract ends, at least 12 months must have passed. "
So I'm in the clear to officially announce my last day as the 1st of Jan.

Thanks for everyone's help.
Interesting. And good for you.
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Old 12.11.2020, 17:14
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Re: Help interpreting a pay back clause in sign off bonus

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And I assume if this is formal legal advice, OP also has some protection if the lawyer is wrong (?)
Good luck with that
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Old 12.11.2020, 17:20
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Re: Help interpreting a pay back clause in sign off bonus

The construction of the line is a little off in my opinion but it's pretty clear to me that it should be interpreted as when the contract actually ends. Giving notice is exactly that - you give notice that the contract will end on date X. The Kuendigung is not the letter you write but the cancellation itself.
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Old 12.11.2020, 17:37
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Re: Help interpreting a pay back clause in sign off bonus

Maybe just double-check that you can end your contract on the first of the month and not the last of the month.
I'm not sure whether it's company policy dependent or somehow Swiss regulations, but it seems common to only allow ending contract on the end of the month (i.e., my current situation too).
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Old 12.11.2020, 17:43
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Re: Help interpreting a pay back clause in sign off bonus

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And I assume if this is formal legal advice, OP also has some protection if the lawyer is wrong (?)
To take that to it‘s logical conclusion, every time a contractual dispute was taken to court, the losing party would sue their lawyer for providing incorrect advice, which would mean there would be no lawyers left (your view on whether this is a good thing or a bad thing may differ).

Different matter if the lawyer has been negligent.
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