Sunday, December 10, 2017

Is employer responsible for expense if I might leave?

Every couple of years, Lil (not her real name, but let's call her "Lil") has to renew her professional license with her state so she can continue practicing as a psychotherapist. The agency at which Lil sees most of her clients generally reimburses Lil for the cost of the license as well as any continuing education courses she needs to take throughout those two years to keep up-to-date with her profession.

For several years now, Lil has contemplated retiring. She enjoys her work, she writes, but she believes it's time to pull back on the work hours and pursue some other interests she's long put off for lack of time. But for several years now, Lil has not followed through on her plans to retire. Now, at 70, she's decided that she'd really like to retire in six months, right before June, so she can look forward to the warm weather in her first days of retirement. At least, that's what Lil thinks she wants to do.

"I've been here before," she writes, "and each time, I've decided to keep on working and seeing clients."

But this time, it might be different.

Because Lil will still have a year-and-a-half left on the license she's now renewing if she does retire, she's wrestling with whether it's right to ask her agency to reimburse her for the cost of the license renewal.

"If I know before I renew the license that I'm likely to be leaving, wouldn't it be wrong to expect them to pay for it?" she asks.

While Lil might be overly conscientious about what she asks of her agency when it comes to supporting her in her profession, there are a few factors here that she might consider before offering to pay for the license renewal herself.

First, even if Lil does follow through with retirement plans this time around, she still will need a current license to see clients at the agency. The agency benefits by having her on staff to see clients, so if it's its practice to underwrite the cost of its practitioners' licenses, then there is no reason not to expect it to do so for any fraction of the time Lil will need one. The state does not seem to have any provision for license terms that are less than two years, so if this is what's needed, then that's what the agency should pay for.

Second, Lil simply may decide, once again, to put off retiring. She has not given notice to her agency, nor has she set her retirement plans firmly in place. If history is any guide, she's just as likely to continue working as she is to retire. Having a valid license in place makes sense.

The agency must regularly face situations where a practitioner leaves the practice for one reason or another. It has never asked one of its practitioners to reimburse it for the time left on the current license. There would be no reason to expect it to do so should Lil retire by June.

Lil should rest easy, renew her license, continue to do good work with clients, and, when the time is finally right, retire with peace of mind that she did the right thing. 

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Simple Art of Business Etiquette: How to Rise to the Top by Playing Nice, is a senior lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School. He is also the administrator of, a blog focused on ethical issues. 

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 


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