Unpaid to Attend Training

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Unpaid to Attend Training

I’ve noticed a creeping tendency for employers to employ staff with the proviso that – “initial training will not be paid.” Is this normal? It seems particularly prevalent in the call centre industry and is it ethical, profitable or simple business common sense?

Have you yourself or your company ever been involved?

Question asked by Closed

Unpaid Training

Let me state clearly that I don’t encourage it. We pay for training of our agents. However I have heard of unpaid training in areas where there are a lot of call centres (such as Atlanta). They said ‘There are a lot of agents that just go from centre to centre being trained (and paid) without ever getting on the phone.’

My answer would be that you just check their resume. If they spent only a few weeks or a month at each centre, you shouldn’t hire them!

With thanks to Marianne

Unpaid Training

I agree to Marianne here. what happens is that most of the agents hop from centre to centre looking for a raise.

Specifically here in India, now that the call centre industry is growing every day… it hard to see agents who think in terms of Career growth.. they’re all so bound by the monetary gains that they jump jobs.

The blame has to be put on call centres who hire such agents by offering them an hike in salary, and not giving an importance to their stability. They want the best agents and are willing to pay high wages, but do not realize that they are messing up the market.

With thanks to Swapnil

Can’t Clap With One Hand, Can You.

Talking about agents jumping different centres for monetary gains, Correct, but WHY is the question. No offence but had you been an agent in the Indian call Centre, what would you do. This experience to most of the agents were given by the Call Centres initially.

They work for more than 6 months to 1 year but nothing happens, no raise in salary or a promotion which is expected. Result is demotivation.

They look for an opportunity and the other centre recognizes the talent and pays well and better with different atmosphere to work in. That’s it , who spends more buys more.

Initially it was he centres exploiting the agents and now its time for the agents , probably down the line it’ll again be the centres. This is the way businesses are run. Why would a centre say no to a good agent with skills.

Again an ex. One of the centres initially recruited around 2000 agents and the recruitments are not ending. They did that for about an year and more. Now after an year they have raised the salary of the individuals at all levels by 80 to 100 % (Only for the individuals who have completed a year).

This is the first time that I have seen this happening with all employees in the call centre industry. The message is clear. No attrition. They have the lowest attrition%.

So you see my friends it is not only spending money, what counts is how you spend it.

These guys gave a raise to probably 300 employees but that was a very less price to retain another 2600. They are smart. They have actually taken care of the biggest problems, attrition rate and motivation.
I know there will be lot more to this….

With thanks to nitin

Unpaid to Attend Training

I guess I can add some value to this conversation :

Over here in India Call centre is a booming industry and most of the workforce is fairly young say (22-35 yrs) now most of them are college graduates 20% are even MBA’s!!

And they actually do not see any future in call centre industry and believe in reaping the most in the shortest possible time that’s on of the reason as to why attritions rate are so higher but till now I have not come across any call centre which do not pay its agents during the training period.

With thanks to Ravi

Unpaid Training!

Yeah, I have heard of some call centres who do this. But I don’t approve of it. Agents need to be paid during training.

The recruitment process just needs to be air tight to ensure that the agents being hired are appropriate for the process to avoid any training drop out or flunkees.

And if attrition is the issue then I agree with Marianne. Look at the resumes and do a thorough reference check before hiring.

With thanks to Navin

Unpaid to Attend Training

There are call centres which do not pay agents during the training period. In fact the latest trend I came across was organisations making the agents pay for at least 50% of their training cost!!! I know of 2 such call centres in Mumbai.

And I don’t think its a bad idea at all. And why not…attrition starts from the training period itself. If the agents bear a part of their training cost probably they’ll think seriously before joining and before quitting.

With thanks to Vineeta

Unpaid Training

I would blame it all on the centres/companies in India for this attrition rate.

Not paying these guys during the training is absolute exploitation. I am strictly against it. This is like starting thing on the wrong foot and also giving negative vibes to the agents. The company should know what they are doing and how to handle these things instead of doing these silly things like not paying to the agents.

Why I blame it to the companies is because I have seen the centres picking up experienced agents from other centres by paying them 1000-1500 more and not even asking for the relieving letter—–this is so unethical. What trend are they setting up for these young kids—–how can you blame these kids for this.

I am sure it can be set right if Management of these centres start thinking positive and create a healthy competition within this Industry. But please pay these guys during the Training they are your employees from minute one they join your company!!!

With thanks to Anjan

Interesting Posts…

Unpaid training is unethical (call centre moralists claim) but not illegal (call centre owners claim)

In India there is no labour law that states you need to pay while the employee is in training period preceding his actual resumption of duties/responsibilities. The majority of the opinions expressed here relate to ethics.

Human history is replete with examples wherein commercial opportunism scored over ethical/moral principles. Keep ethical part away and the centres are not doing anything illegal.

The inspiration/ solution to this issue is in the Apprentice Act ( I am sure a similar act exists in England too as Indian acts are drafted by Englishmen), wherein a person after successfully undergone a certification course in a trade works as an apprentice to gain experience in that trade as a trainee. During that period he is entitled to a stipend.

If all call centre professionals feel that their industry is a trade and need special skills (that’s what majority of the participants in this forum claim it is)to perform duties in a call centre, let them unite and force the local governments to bring in legislations to that effect.

Instead of ruling out any payment, there is no harm in paying the person a nominal stipend that covers his transportation and out of pocket expenses. This is neither unethical nor illegal. If call centres are paid on performance why not employees be paid only when they perform?

With thanks to Vedula

Unpaid to Attend Training

My feelings on this are that is comes across very Victorian and old world to try and get away without paying your employees/agents for training

Lets take India for example we see the documentaries and see the bad living conditions out there and the hardships families have to face

Unless your agents are really abusing the training they are giving and are call centre hopping why in gods name are you trying to take food off there plates is it not bad enough for them out there without having any further money taken from them

From a moral perspective a person working for a company feels like giving more back to that company in work effort when they know the company backs them 100% all the way and does not skimp

With thanks to John

Unpaid to Attend Training

Let me correct you here.  All the call centres which are there in India are all in metro cities.85-90% of these agents comes from middle class or rich families. Trust me they use this money as their pocket money and not to feed their parents or sisters and brothers.

Still getting back to the issue of non payment during training is absolutely rubbish concept and its not by thinking on moral grounds but talking about practical implications on these kids. If you go back and check my earlier posting on this topic, you will understand what I am talking about.

Its a direct relation to agents performance, their dedication towards the company and so on. Other than money, lets not forget one of the reason why BPO is happening in India is the low attrition rate and we can improve on this by getting these agents dedicated towards the company.

With thanks to Anjan

Bad Living Conditions

Building up a perception on the basis of Documentaries I think is not a fair idea. Rather India happens to be the 5th most powerful country in the world with the second largest population in the world.

Secondly rural areas and the living you are talking about is everywhere in every country, its just that the traditions in India are a wee bit different. Not that its my country, the fact is that when it comes to technology i.e. IT India has the strongest foothold.

The maximum labour with multi-tasking skills can be found nowhere than India. Basically rich in resources and less on cash. Cash too can be taken care of only if the politicians open their pockets to poor and put the right money in the right place. I bet it’ll break even in 2 years. 🙂

With thanks to nitin

Let’s Move It On

What about those companies (they tend to be small marketing companies) who’s training consists of shoving a script in front of you and telling you to make ‘x’ sales in a day/week.

Basically you learn yourself as you go along, if you don’t make the grade you are out very quickly. The company wins as it spends next to no time recruiting/developing you and only the strong and adaptable survive.

Shouldn’t recruitment and training be more than this or should it be up to the employee to deliver and pronto?

With thanks to Closed

Performance = Results

I missed this earlier – interesting perspective Vedula. Let my put some current UK thinking and legislation to you.

>>> Unpaid training is unethical (call centre moralists claim) but not illegal (call centre owners claim)

Not so in the UK and many other countries that have labour laws and a national minimum wage, staff should be paid whilst training.

>>> Keep ethical part away and the centres are not doing anything illegal.

See point above there are international labour laws, India has ratified many of standards of the International Labour Organisation and was one of its earliest members.

>>> The inspiration/ solution to this issue is in the Apprentice Act ( I am sure a similar act exists in England too as Indian acts are drafted by Englishmen), wherein a person after successfully undergone a certification course in a

The UK has NVQ’s however these are government sponsored (and highly regulated) the wages and training standards are part of the whole employment deal not specifically a reduction in pay for initial training.

>>> Instead of ruling out any payment, there is no harm in paying the person a nominal stipend that covers his transportation and out of pocket expenses. This is neither unethical nor illegal.

Yes it is, see answers above, if the person makes a sale their sale is worth the same to your organisation as an experienced employee’s sale. The value of the sale to the company is the same, it isn’t any less because he/she may or may not have have less skills. That’s what performance is based on, results not skill levels.

With thanks to Closed

Unpaid Training

I totally agree…there are call centres in India which believe that training means shoving a piece of paper they call a “script” in front of the marketers and leave them to learn on their own. The rule that follows after this “training” is basically perform or perish.

These centres need to keep in mind that these agents, most of whom are freshers, have a lot to learn. They have no idea about soft skills or accent training. Knowing the culture of the nation they call is also important. Only then can they be successful telemarketers. They just need to be given a fair chance.

With thanks to ashley

Interesting Posts

Good that everyone agrees that a person should be paid during training. Closed commented that a sale by a trainee is still a sale. The unpaid training period I was referring to was the training period wherein no live call is made/handled.

The point I was trying to make was that a business decision to pay or not to pay is driven by what is legally avoidable and what is legally payable. Every company wants to avoid tax (it is termed tax planning) and not evade tax which is illegal.

If law states that you pay for training period then it is acceptable. If there is a way by which you can avoid full payment prior to the employee becoming productive and is not illegal then it is an ethical issue.

How many of you endorse the idea that a new hire be paid an allowance for having attended an interview at his own cost and got selected?(Local candidates responding to an advertisement and getting selected)

In India if you attend a call centre interview you will get a free movie ticket and if you are selected you get a mobile phone free.

With thanks to Vedula

Not Paying for Initial Training

This is an unacceptable practice, regardless of the country.

Personally, would not do business with any company that conducted itself in such a manner.

With thanks to Steve

Unpaid Training …

I have recently worked with a small outsource call centre and they have taken the approach of paying for new advisors training, once they have been with the company for 4/6 weeks.

This has ensured that the company has had a return on their investment in training the new advisors.

With thanks to Neil

A Bit Rich…

From a customer service representative’s perspective, I have to say that not paying for training is disgusting. The perception your putting forward to your staff surely can’t promote a freethinking and happy workplace. Its ironic this question falls within a forum, which asks for reasons for high turnover.

As for staff who jump from job to job purely for a “two week paid training period” I have to ask if you have anything to validate this statement?

Perhaps your workplace conditions weren’t up to that particular staff member’s standards/requirements (that’s right people, your agents have standards too, shock horror) and they decided to leave as apposed to your theory of making a decision purely on financial grounds.

I for one know that I’d never approach a company for employment if they expected me to attend unpaid training, any logic used to justify this from a management perspective frankly won’t cut it with your agents, and your starting on the back foot before you get the agent on the phone, and once having attended unpaid training, you actually expect the staff member to retain information? A bit rich me thinks.

With thanks to Asiri

To Pay Or Not to Pay…

I think we have to make agents in India responsible. How often have I trained agents who tell me that they are ‘here’ just for a month or two – making some ‘pocket money’ instead of sitting at home while they wait for… whatever it is.

30% of trainees feel and think like this. Another 30% ‘use’ one call centre to get some experience and move to another one which was more difficult to get into, in the first place.

Something has to be worked out where they end up ‘paying’ for the training only if they leave before a stipulated time frame.

That would be fair to all concerned. Especially the poor recruiting agencies who end up giving dozens of ‘free replacements’!

With thanks to Navaz


I’m amazed there is even anything to discuss on this issue.

If companies experience issues with high levels of staff leaving within the first few weeks then they need to look at themselves, not the employees.

Are you employing the right people? Is your recruitment process all it should be?

The industry must have attracted this type of action amongst the workforce – by continuing to recruit them -and this suggests there are larger issues to resolve. Is employing a recent graduate, who plans for a career in Molecular Biology, the right candidate to answer phones all day every day?

With thanks to Robert

Two Sides of A Coin

I really could not imagine working for a company that wouldn’t pay for training.

On the other hand I know that the last contact centre I worked in had a big problem with taking our 5 weeks of training and then quitting before they hit the floor and we got an ROI.

It started to become an epidemic as more and more people did this. Nothing we could really do to stop it though besides screen people closely and watch for tell-tale signs.

I let a few people go that would have been excellent but were overheard bragging how they were going to quit the first day.

With thanks to Justin

Unpaid to Attend Training

If you complete your training (1-2 days) and stay for a minimum of 5 days we’ll pay your training days otherwise they go unpaid.

Does anyone find this any more palatable???

With thanks to Closed


I think that unpaid training is not an effective option as the staff are not motivated by the companies apparent lack of trust in them before they have even started.

Whilst the solution we used still leans this way, it gives an incentive for staff to stay for at least 3 months, whereby if they left we were not left financially short, but if they chose to stay they could potentially get a pay rise based on the pay scheme used.

My last call centre (outsourced) had the issue of keeping staff after 5 weeks of training. The solution that we found worked best was for us to incentivise staff to stay after their training for long enough that we could bill the client the cost of the agents training.

We did this by paying the agents a fixed rate whilst in training with a pay rise upon completion, if the agent then completed a pre-set amount of time after training, approx. 3 months, we would then pay them the difference between the training wage rate and the completed training rate for the 5 weeks of training

We calculated that the agent working for 3 months covered the cost of training them as well as the extra money they received as a one off bonus.

This worked well for us as the length of service for new agents increased and the quality monitoring by an external company showed that we did gain some benefit from this method.

With thanks to Scott

Recruitment Practice is Inseparable

I am curious Scott did your company improve its recruitment practices or only the pay structure??

With thanks to Closed

I Agree

I think that half the problem with staffing is getting the right staff with the right conditions.

Before we implemented this change we were constrained by a generic HR process to recruit staff. This method was used for all campaigns and enforced by company policy.

We argued this point and got a concession to interview and vet our own staff, this allowed us the freedom to direct the advertising and the interview and job specifications to our campaign, and also to use the actual team managers to interview the staff.

Giving us not only the visibility of staff before they start (from a TM POV) but also direct feedback from the interview as to any holes/ areas to improve in our job specs/interview process

So in answer to your question, yes we improved both our recruitment practices and pay structures

IMO this was successful as the average new leavers Length of Service increased from approx. 10-12 weeks (inc. training for 5) to 22-24 weeks over the year following this process change

What are your thought on this process?

With thanks to Scott

Well Done

>>what are your thought on this process?

Firstly I’m glad it worked for you and sad that your HR dept seems somewhat inflexible and not on the ball with regard to training and retention issues, they should drive the issue forward.

Did you ask any questions on motivation for the job and how did you ensure the candidates weren’t pulling the wool over your eyes??

With thanks to Closed

If Only Life Was That Easy!!

We did ask motivational questions and the interview was discussed between the management team. I was mainly involved in resourcing so I don’t have much info on the actual interviews.

With the bonus being paid after 3 months the agent was within their probationary period. All new agents that started were closely monitored on their performance and compared with levels for a new agent.

If we had poor performing agents they would get extra training to help them improve, but if they showed a lack of inclination to improve or a blatant ‘don’t care’ attitude they would be warned that they would not be taken on if they did not work to improve their performance.

One of the key things we did in terms of recruiting, was to get a group of good, average and not so good performing agents and asked them to come up with a fair job description, detailing the day to day tasks of an agent, IMO this would have helped to get better informed candidates and therefore agents better prepared for the job.

We may have been fortunate, but we did not recruit many candidates that were ‘pulling the wool’, but those who managed to pull the wool over our eyes would have been identified during the first 3 months.

With thanks to Scott

In Addition

If you remember Ritchie and I also restructured the teams so that someone coming out of training wasn’t immediately hit with the complex calls, this was done with the aim of giving them experience on the simpler calls in the first 3 months and not giving them an ‘I can’t cope with this’ morale sapping strain.

That was when we went to the 3 way skills based routing model, oh must have been late 2001.

Staff retention ‘seemed’ to improve after that.

With thanks to Dave

Is That Not A Common Practice?

Something I implemented many moons ago was a “holding pool” for fresh out of training agents. These had decided OPA time – over time the mix of off phone and on phone time changed (reduced off phone and more on phone), until the end of week four when they were “released into the wild” so to speak.

And on the first point of paid for training – yes, all were paid, and if they failed they still got the months worth of money.

With thanks to Ian

I Would Say So

All centres I have knowledge of operate some kind of creched environment for an easier transition.

And all pay in training.

With thanks to Zoe


Does anyone have any ideas on how to influence a client who has this policy.

A sophisticated approach would be appreciated.

I have already come up with:

  1. It devalues training and trainer and fosters less commitment from employee.
  2. Promoted the notion that learning is not something that the company invests in.
  3. Increases propensity for learning to be unsuccessful (as learners have obstacles to learning)
  4. Does not promote investment in training, a quality metric with long term gain.

However the companies view may be

  1. It maximises our ROI with temporary staff who are unlikely to stay given our high attrition rates.
  2. It acts as an incentive to learn and do well.
  3. Reluctance to increase costs.

With thanks to Closed

Author: Jonty Pearce

Published On: 12th Apr 2022 - Last modified: 22nd Apr 2022
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