back to article 'Best tech employer of the year' threatened trainee with £15k penalty fee for quitting to look after his sick mum

A company hailed as the UK's top tech employer tried to diddle a former trainee out of £2,000 in unlawfully withheld back pay – and a judge was startled when he discovered how Sparta Global treats its new hires. The London-headquartered firm, which boasts of delivering "top business and technology professionals", in fact …

  1. Joe Drunk

    "top business and technology professionals"

    "Cheapest business and technology disposable employees" FTFY.

    It's been a while but is 3 months without pay and then a 2 year indentured servitude the new standard for those entering IT? That would pushed me off to a different field!

    1. Fred Daggy Silver badge

      Re: "top business and technology professionals"

      Considering a degree costs more than that, and one may not be paid for 3 or 4 years. Perhaps this is cheap?

      Theoretically an upside of completing a degree, is ... well, a degree.

      1. needmorehare

        My masters degree

        ...cost me £6,500 in educational fees and with all other overheads, only cost me £16,000. Nope. Not cheaper. I also got a very quick ROI on it too due to a massive pay rise, plus the pandemic reducing my overall living costs. Can’t complain!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: My masters degree

          A master's is typically a one year course that bolts onto an existing degree, so wouldn't be directly comparable. Unless you're talking about an undergraduate course that goes on directly to masters status, but those tend to be 4 years total - again not easy to make a direct comparison.

          In any case, it doesn't really matter what it cost you back in the day, the comparison is what it costs now. Tuition fees are currently 9k per year, so a degree costs at least 27K even if you don't count any of the other associated costs of studying (books, transport, accommodation etc.). However, as the previous commenter said, at least you get a degree at the end of it - a qualification which is broadly recognised by everyone, not just by clients of Sparta Global.

          1. Dr Paul Taylor

            Re: My masters degree

            A master's is typically a one year course that bolts onto an existing degree

            Technically, yes you can't get a Master's degree unless you already have a Bachelor's degree in something. Classics, for example.

            However, many universities offer "conversion" MScs (for graduates in other subjects), which compress three years of a computer science BSc into one year.

            It is remarkable how graduates of apparently non-mathematical subjects sometimes turn out to be very able programmers.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: My masters degree

              "many universities offer "conversion" MScs"

              They do, but degrees that *don't* give you a bachelor's degree do exist. I got one of the first hundred or so Master's degrees in engineering to be conferred that way, so I can write MEng after my name, but *not* BEng.

            2. Roland6 Silver badge

              Re: My masters degree

              >It is remarkable how graduates of apparently non-mathematical subjects sometimes turn out to be very able programmers.

              It is remarkable that this still has to be said...

              It was recognised way back (1970's and probably earlier) that Computing wasn't just a branch of maths and so struggled both to become a subject in its own right hence the rise of BSc. Computing and dedicated Uni faculities/departments wholly independent of the Maths department.

              1. shah27

                Re: My masters degree

                Computer Science and Software development was never a branch of Mathematics. This has always been a myth and an assumption those that had no idea.

                I was always pushed down the Computer Science and Software development route when I was in college simply because I was singularly gifted in Mathematics. (later came to realise I was gifted at mathematics because I was a logical thinker and was able not only follow but understand maths examples).

                Computer Science is totally different. Yes it incorporates mathematics just like physics or geotechnics but it is not just mathematics. It all comes down to if someone is able to solve problems. Once you start looking at it from that perspective you realise that a lot of people in every field possible are all problem solvers.

                1. Roland6 Silver badge

                  Re: My masters degree

                  >Computer Science and Software development was never a branch of Mathematics. This has always been a myth and an assumption those that had no idea.

                  Yet it took until the late 1970's before there was such thing as a BSc.(Hons) Computing qualification (in the UK at least).

                  Also many universities (eg. Oxford and Cambridge) not only awarded a BA. but had the Computing dept. as a sub-branch of the maths facility. ie. you had to apply to study maths and then specialise in computing.

                  I know this as having a Computing Department and awarding a BSc(Hon) Computing was part of my criteria when I selected Universities back then - from memory it was a very short list - slightly longer than than the UCCA form permitted...

                  >I was always pushed down the Computer Science and Software development route when I was in college simply because I was singularly gifted in Mathematics. (later came to realise I was gifted at mathematics because I was a logical thinker and was able not only follow but understand maths examples).

                  Did you excel at the Mathematical Analysis, which was more about logic and structuring of the logical argument to stepwise solve a problem?

            3. sabroni Silver badge

              Re: remarkable how graduates of non-mathematical subjects turn out to be able programmers.

              What's remarkable is that people think you need to be able to do maths to be able to program. For the vast majority of coding work logic is what is needed, not maths.

          2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: My masters degree

            In any case, it doesn't really matter what it cost you back in the day, the comparison is what it costs now. Tuition fees are currently 9k per year, so a degree costs at least 27K even if you don't count any of the other associated costs of studying

            This isn't a true reflection of the situation. What the coalition did was basically implement a complicated version of the Lib Dems graduate tax policy, but call it a tuition fee. I don't know if this was deliberate Conservative party strategy, to bugger up the Lib Dem's future (I bet someone claims it in their autobiography in a few years time) - or, I think the more likely reason, was just bloody mindedness. Not to give them too many of their policies in the coalition agreement.

            If you earn less than £22k (or is it £20k?) you pay none of the debt back until your income goes above that. You payments are also time-limited - so the debt goes away when you hit somewhere around 40. meanwhile your payments are staggered as your income goes up, and those earning over £40k consistently will end up paying back more than £27k plus the very low interest.

            So although the amounts are much higher than the old student loans of my days in the mid-90s, the risks are lower as you had to start paying those back if you were earning almost anything at all. Whereas with these you can earn a reasonable amount before having to worry about it - and unlike a normal debt, it's not a problem if you're out of work or if your income suddenly drops - and there's not more future debt to ambush you when you get back to a higher salary, as it's time limited. I'm not even sure that if you earn the national average wage you won't time out before you've paid back the full amount.

            1. Mr Humbug

              There are a couple of reasons for packaging it as a loan, not graduate tax:

              Graduates who move to highly paid jobs abroad stop paying UK income tax but still have to pay the loan repayments

              For the next 30 years the borrowing is an individual's personal debt, not part of governemnt debt. A graduate tax would have the government paying the money up front against gaining potential future tax revenue, so natioanal debt increases

              1. Roland6 Silver badge

                >There are a couple of reasons for packaging it as a loan, not graduate tax:

                Also all students incurred it, including those from the EU who were entitled to the same benefits package...

                For some reason the UK government permitted Scotland to breach EU rules and not permit students from England to benefit from their lack of tuition fees...

                >For the next 30 years the borrowing is an individual's personal debt, not part of governemnt debt.

                Yes, successive UK governments were good at getting future liabilities off book and so not count towards the current national debt. Only problem is that Students aren't paying enough off and the debt is growing into a problem which some future government will have to deal with...

      2. Cynic_999

        Re: "top business and technology professionals"

        Charging a fee for training is justified only if the trainee were to receive a *recognised* qualification at the end of the training.

        1. FordPrefect

          Re: "top business and technology professionals"

          I think you also have to be able to demonstrate where that cost is derived. If you want someone to repay an external training course where you have directly paid out for example 3k to a CISCO partner for the ICND courses is easy to justify. Where you've told someone who is unpaid here are a few online seminars with one of our people who has limited experience thats far harder to justify. Where do you get that cost from? When breaking a contract generally you have to be able to account for direct losses you are trying to recoup. An internal trainer shared across numerous people is unlikely to amount to that much.

    2. Blackjack Silver badge

      Re: "top business and technology professionals"

      No, the new standard is to fire anyone over 40,:outsource everything and then act shocked when you get hacked.

      1. MrDamage Silver badge

        Re: "top business and technology professionals"

        Then act all double shocked when the people you fired turn out to be the only ones who know how the system works, and will only come back at their previous rate.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "top business and technology professionals"

          At their /previous/ rate? There better be a substantial raise in the come-back request, thanks very much.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "top business and technology professionals"

            Substantial, yep. Let's start with a 2X multiplier to come on as a contractor instead of an employee. Now add a 50-200% premium due to the fact they're looking for speciallized skills or knowledge. Next add escallators for the facts that this is an emergency repair and that the situation is an unstable mess.

            On top of all that, if the requester is a former employer, there's a possible "asshole tax"

            1. The Indomitable Gall

              Re: "top business and technology professionals"

              2x ?

              I though contractor rates were 3 to 5x salary.

              1. Wilco

                Re: "top business and technology professionals"

                I don't know anyone on that kind of multiple. Someone who can get a contract at £800/day (~ £190K/year) in a bank to do low latency fixed income development could easily a get a VP job at 100K + benefits at the same bank. It's similar at all levels.

              2. DenonDJ DN-2500F

                Re: "top business and technology professionals"

                If only this were so. I've accepted a permanent position for 25% less than I'm on doing the same role as a contractor but with the job market as it is around here, I'm glad to be employed and able to work from home,

          2. jglathe

            Re: "top business and technology professionals"

            Only as an advisor, to be paid up front and in full.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "top business and technology professionals"

            Asked to come back, after leaving at retirement age. I upped the daily cost to 3 times my previous equivalent day rate. there were no questions asked by superior but HR tried to lower the rate, so i said 'not on, my rate or no go' They agreed to my rate.

        2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

          Re: "top business and technology professionals"

          If they decide to come back at all, despite the inducement.

          The wayback machine doesn't seem to find it, but from memory.

          B**land HR - We need terminations, let loose the P45's.

          Sometime later....

          Whaddya mean you terminated our chief developer & architect, the guy that's got everything we have planned now & our road map for the next 4 years, had him escorted off the premises within 30 seconds of the notice instead of the cleaner with the same name.

          Cue lots of phone calls to the guy with a new better paid job (Who was snatched up very quickly & unsurprisingly) including a grovelling one from the CEO.

          I don't recall if the guy extremely pissed at the manner of his termination came back or not.

    3. Snake Silver badge

      Re: "top business and technology professionals"

      "It's been a while but is 3 months without pay and then a 2 year indentured servitude the new standard for those entering IT?"

      It seems so for some companies. Go to YouTube and watch Joshua Fluke's channel, for example

      And that's one of dozens of stories the young man will tell.

    4. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: "top business and technology professionals"

      It's been a while but is 3 months without pay and then a 2 year indentured servitude the new standard for those entering IT? That would pushed me off to a different field!

      Sort of yes.

      Hired only through temp agency so no benefits. No paid sick of holidays. Too many days off no matter the reason and you get fired. At best, 1-2 years before the client company hires you as permanent staff, though it very rare but always "dangled" and the "contract" rarely lasts a year in the first place. No pay raises no matter your performance. If you are happy in your chosen specialty, you are considered a low achiever.

      And plenty of noobs who think they have a chance of getting hired so act like they are indentured to every whim of the client company and their coworkers are the enemy. So a lot like "zero" contracts but with slightly more stable hours.

      And that's just the highlights.

      Why Sparta isn't fined right of business is unacceptable. Why I.T. workers put up with this is beyond idiocy.

      1. My-Handle

        Re: "top business and technology professionals"

        Yup, that seems disturbingly familiar.

        My path into IT:

        - Get hired by a website company doing basic QA

        - Quickly start doing software development whilst still under QA contract. That was the kind of work my team needed, and given the choice between learning IT dev work and acting as a glorified spell-checker I'd pick the IT work any day.

        - Continue doing software development for the next 3 years, still on original contract at £17k a year (in the London commuter belt). One minor raise in the last year or so. Did it because I liked it, and I knew the experience would be valuable

        - Moved to NI (family reasons, and where the pay goes a lot further). I'm now the lead developer for a company website that handles millions in transactions a year. Pay still isn't great, but it isn't bad either.

        It turns out that taking a shit job for the experience is an investment in yourself. A lot of IT workers realise this, and a lot of big companies take unfair advantage of it.

        1. sabroni Silver badge

          Re: Pay still isn't great, but it isn't bad either.

          You're the problem.

          Stand up for yourself (and the rest of us) and demand the market rate.

          IT Companies can only take "unfair advantage" of you if you let them.

          1. My-Handle

            Re: Pay still isn't great, but it isn't bad either.

            And quickly get fired. Yep, that's a nice attractive prospect for someone who didn't actually have any on-paper qualification or experience in the industry. I hate to burst your bubble, but it's exceptionally easy for big and powerful companies to take advantage of individuals, whether you let them or not. Theoretically, we have employment law to prevent that going too far, but that only goes so far.

            If it's any consolation to you, once I had a few years experience doing that role, I walked in to a proper software development job and did demand the market rate from them. Timing was the key, there.

        2. SpamuelBeckett

          Re: "top business and technology professionals"

          I did a software bootcamp for £7k, then started at £30k a year in my first role.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "top business and technology professionals"

        It's been said that the question isn't so much "why are there so few women in IT?" as "why are there so many men in IT?"

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

    5. fidodogbreath

      Re: "top business and technology professionals"

      Sad thing is, they still might be the 'best tech employer of the year.' It's a comparison; the "winner" just needs to be slightly less-terrible than the rest.

  2. Mike 137 Silver badge

    Suddenly, all is clear

    "8. The claimant attended the SDET training course at the respondent’s ‘IT Academy’ from 14 May 2018 to 10 September 2018. All training was provided in-house by the respondent and none procured from any external supplier. The trainers did not have any specific level of qualification. The claimant’s allocated ‘coach’ had been coding for 18 months. Most of the training was self-learning.

    9. [...] Plus, every job role or placement was different, requiring different things to learn. The onus was on the trainee to learn rather than be taught."

    Quite apart from the appalling abuse of personnel, there is another aspect, at least as important. A complete novice, casually 'trained' for four months by unqualified 'trainers', themselves almost novices, and placed on assignment as part of the 'training'. This explains a lot about the incidence of software project failure and the abysmal quality of much code.

    1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

      Re: Suddenly, all is clear

      Standard process for most big names in IT...

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Suddenly, all is clear

      When I first started in IT, the company I worked for had an internal training division. There is nothing wrong with having a training division or an academy. But it needs to be a professional set-up and it need trained professionals running it.

      Ours was so good that the training was actually also sold to clients.

      1. Stoneshop

        Re: Suddenly, all is clear

        Ours was so good that the training was actually also sold to clients.

        The one from my first employer still exists, as an independent company after having been spun off 25 years ago; the company itself has disappeared into the greedy but utterly visionless maw of Eckhard Pfeiffer, whose company, one CEO later and in a rather delapidated state, was scooped up by the equally incompetent Carly Fiorina.

        1. Unicornpiss

          Re: Training

          In a previous job I was supposed to train with my predecessor for most of a week. Instead I got 2 hours of training, she got a phone call, had to leave abruptly to go to a funeral, and I never saw her again. That was my training.

          1. DJV Silver badge

            Re: Training

            That sounds like it was a "dead" end job!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Suddenly, all is clear

        I recently went through a 9-month Academy programme with my current employer (a large UK tech firm). It was a full 9-month secondment with a support network of coaches and mentors, various classroom days involving both internal and (at times) external training (mainly for the ITIL foundation part of the programme).

        I was an internal candidate as I've worked here for a number of years, but there were also 5 external graduates on the programme as well. No nasty rules about being tied to the company, or liable for training costs or anything, anyone could leave when they wanted. This way of course you have to make the programme good/engaging enough to retain everyone on it rather than using nefarious tactics to tie people to the scheme and to the company.

        Besides, do you really want to place people into a customer site who don't want to be there? That kind of attitude usually shows pretty quickly...

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Re: Suddenly, all is clear

          Despite our academy being excellent, it doesn't sort out all the chaff...

          I had to mentor one guy who came out the other end. He'd been pushed from project to project, the PMs couldn't wait to get rid of him. Then I was assigned as his mentor and I actually called up a couple of the PMs and asked for a quick assessment.

          It turned out, that after 6 months of training and 6 months of project work, he still didn't understand a for-loop or how an if statement worked! His testing was passable, but not good.

          I called him in for a talk. It turned out he was a marketing graduate, but marketing graduates don't make enough money in the first couple of years, so he went into programming instead, because it was better paid!

          I managed to get him seconded to the marketing department, where he actually excelled for about 6 months... Then he was shoved back into the programming pool, despite my recommendations and protests. :-(

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Suddenly, all is clear

            We stuck with one major account - an account we'd remain on after finishing the academy. Makes it a bit more important for the mentors to ensure you succeed. Either that, or you fail the academy here and drop back to your previous role (assuming you're internal of course). Ours also has two subsequent scheduled pay-rises which are conditional on passing follow-up assessments where your progress is inspected.

            Not foolproof of course as you are relying a lot on the recommendation of your mentors and peers, but it seems to do pretty good at sorting out the chaff.

            We did have one candidate who couldn't handle it and left after 5 months. Didn't think it was his ideal field. It was his choice, but we certainly didn't pursue him for loads of training fees or anything else draconian.

        2. Manolo

          Re: Suddenly, all is clear

          "This way of course you have to make the programme good/engaging enough to retain everyone on it rather than using nefarious tactics to tie people to the scheme and to the company."

          Comparable to an Outlaw Motor Gang. Or the EU.

          I'll get me coat...

        3. Unicornpiss

          Re: ITIL training..

          Ugh, I had to take that, as I suspect many of us have. I think in lieu of actual training it was more to prove your loyalty and basic coping skills. When I took that final test (which I actually did well on), I remember the intro "There are no trick questions." Yeah, have to call BS on that---nearly every question was a trick question on that turd.

    3. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Suddenly, all is clear

      You ARE NOT exaggerating. I've seen it many times literally right down the hall.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mishcon de Reya

    Ah. Lovely people. The one's issuing letters to Daphne Caruana Galizia, before she was assassinated, to try and silence her through the UK's mercenary libel courts?

    1. AW-S

      Re: Mishcon de Reya

      As MdR state on their radio commercials, "It's business, but it's personal".

      Always felt that tagline sounded awkward. The last words from an assassin, moments before you are hit.

    2. Olafthemighty

      Re: Mishcon de Reya

      Also after she was dead.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Mishcon de Reya

        Of course. After all, they would have had no way of knowing she was dead before it was announced, would they?

  4. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    I'd have thought that the three months unpaid work at the start of the contract would be against the minimum wage law.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      It would if it was work - but as long as it's training or an internship then slavery is fine

      1. ElectricPics

        A vocational placement can be ok, but if there’s any element of an employee/employer relationship it really isn’t, and I’d say this Training Agreement counts as exactly that.

        1. Tom 7

          Given that even for employees there’s no elements of an employee/employer relationship that ones easy to get by the courts.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Funny that certain southern states haven't thought of this.

            Multi-year unpaid internships in the field of cotton-fields available - includes free housing, food and travel from Africa.

            (actually sounds like a better deal than some finance industry interships in New York)

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              "Multi-year unpaid internships in the field of cotton-fields available - includes free housing, food and travel from Africa."

              You seem to have forgotten to mention the whipping and other acts of brutality among the "perks" you will receive, somehow?

    2. Brad Ackerman

      Tribunals can't issue the same judgments as a civil court (source), which would explain why the claimant wasn't awarded costs and punitive damages.

    3. Grease Monkey Silver badge

      "I'd have thought that the three months unpaid work at the start of the contract would be against the minimum wage law."

      You'd think. But apparently internship is legal on the grounds that it forwards people's careers and banning it would potentially hard people's career prospects.

      Few things to consider. Poor people seldom have internships, interns are generally from well off families. Otherwise they couldn't afford to live without a wage. And of course you don't seem to see interns at companies with cashflow problems, they are usually large rich companies. In other words internships benefit people from well off backgrounds and rich companies. I'm trying to avoid using words like donor, voter and conservative but you know where I'm coming from.

      All part of the usual plan to keep the poor poor (and paying taxes) and make the rich richer (while preferably not paying taxes). But of course rich people and businesses is good for the country any Tory MP will tell you that while of course not being able to adequately explain how it's good for the country.

  5. Sceptic Tank Silver badge

    I've always wondered how these companies win "Best Employer" awards. I worked for one that won the prize but employment there was a pretty miserable experience. Matthew & Son.

    1. Hairy Scary

      The work's never done, there's always something new.

      1. Steve K

        .and a 5-minute break if you are lucky

        .and a 5-minute break if you are lucky

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Many of these industry awards are simply something you pay for. One of our clients' were really proud of themselves for winning a small business award. You don't get told if you've won until after you've paid a minimum of £2k to turn up to the awardsd dinner. Companies that don't pay, don't win. And that's after sometimes having to pay for "certification". Staff got a jolly at a prestigious hotel in London - so I guess everyone's a winner.

      Dave Gorman did a piece on awards in one of the episodes of 'Modern Life is Goodish' as well. That's things like when some cleaning product advertises itself as "product of the year" - and then it turns out that other products in the same industry are doing the same. I guess it's like the profusion of championship belts in Boxing. 20 years ago you were undisputed heavyweight champion of the world if you held three - now there are about ten.

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        el Reg

        So the 'Cynical IT news website of the year' award the the Register wins EVERY YEAR, is that, umm genuine?

        <Shakes head in disbelief.>

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: el Reg

          >So the 'Cynical IT news website of the year' award the the Register wins EVERY YEAR

          That's different - you have to pay not to win.

          Once it wins then it's no longer cynical enough and loses all it's street cred

      2. JimboSmith Silver badge

        In one industry I worked in there was a very prestigious awards ceremony. You couldn't "win" the award through advertising with anyone it really was done on the judges decision. One year we were nominated for an award which was nice. I was on the nominated team so went to the top London hotel which was hosting the dinner in their ballroom. The food (for vegetarians) was a meatless kiev that had been cooked to death. My knife didn't work with a sawing action on the breadcrumb encrusted horror. Instead I placed it vertically over the central hump of the thing and then hit it with my fist repeatedly. It took a few attempts but when it did eventually crack my plate was a sea of melted garlic butter. Inedible doesn't do it justice and I just ate the watery veg that were served with the meal. Everyone found it funny, we even emailed the company head of legal to enquire as to my rights in such a situation. Sadly he didn't see it until 9am as he didn't check his BlackBerry.

        I had a halloumi burger on the way home I vowed I wouldn't go again because the food was so crap and the ticket so expensive. We didn't win and the next time we were nominated we won but I wasn't there to see it.

    3. Martin an gof Silver badge

      I get the feeling a lot of awards are like this. My first full realisation of this was when Magna Science Adventure Centre in Rotherham won the RIBA Stirling prize architecture award in 2001 ahead of the Eden project in Cornwall.

      I was working at Magna at the time and while the building was visually spectacular (the Eden project was just as spectacular) it completely failed as a workable building on so many other levels that most of us couldn't even believe it was shortlisted. It was horribly energy-inefficient, the "visitor flow" was poor (people kept getting lost), the building systems simply didn't work half the time (I've previously recounted horror stories about the drains) and while the fit-out didn't really count towards the prize there were stupidly foreseeable problems with the building, such as the main lifts which failed every time a neighbouring steelworks powered up and put a spike on the mains, or the pair of smoke sensors placed "downwind" of the "Big Melt" show, which meant that in certain weather conditions the alarm system would enter "first knock" every time the show ran, and if you weren't quick enough, or were unlucky enough, the second sensor would force a section evacuation.

      If you are going to offer a prize for architecture it needs to do more than send a panel of judges on a dunner jolly and a 90 minute guided tour. It needs to investigate the whole thing, not just the headlines.

      Once you realise that most industry prizes are awarded in the same way - i.e. on a superficial inspection only - everything begins to fall into place. Where did the judges get the best dinner?


      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        >RIBA Stirling prize architecture award

        Generally given on the basis of how much the roof/windows leak when it rains

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        the "visitor flow" was poor

        As far as I could make it it was arse about face. You walked past all the things done with the product of the Big Melt before you actually got to see it. And the flow of trying to get back to anywhere recognisable by following the signage when driving away from it was another nightmare.

        I couldn't seen the point of the classical elements except to point to the educational background of the designers but the Water bit was fun.

      3. don't you hate it when you lose your account

        Shed of the year

        They do it properly

    4. AW-S

      Here's a Cat video

      Sceptic, my present to you (on my birthday):

    5. katrinab Silver badge

      My dormant company with £7 in the bank "won" one of these awards. I just had to pay something like £5,000 for an awards ceremony to receive it.

    6. Hollerithevo

      Matthew and Son

      At least at Matthew and Son you got a piece of cake.

      1. The Indomitable Gall

        Re: Matthew and Son

        The cake is a lie.

    7. Blofeld's Cat

      Er ...

      A chemical engineer friend of mine worked on a site where they won an annual safety award. They also got loaned a flag which they proudly hoisted outside the High Pressure Lab.

      A few days before the flag was due to be handed back, there was what my friend called a "routine small explosion" which neatly punched a hole through it.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The "Best employer" is the one you yourself want to work with. Awards are meaningless.

    Choosing an employer and being happy there is a personal choice.

    Sorry to hear about this person's story and I hope their fortunes take a good turn soon.

  7. Potemkine! Silver badge

    This is Sparta!

    Somebody had to do it ^^

    "They offer free tech training and are constantly running initiatives to address the gender balance."

    That's true! As Mr. Ofonagoro can testify, they treat male workers badly too.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm sure these Best awards are paid for

    Over the years I've worked for some decent companies but also some that were truly terrible employers. It always surprised/worried me that the latter always seemed to win awards for being 'Best Employer' or 'Top Employer' - so much so I was always certain that these were paid for.

    Anonymous for obvious reasons as I'm not yet retired.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm sure these Best awards are paid for

      Have an upvote. I've worked for a company like that, it seems they work harder at getting the (bought) rankings than at actually doing the right thing.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: I'm sure these Best awards are paid for

      It's like advertising. In a lot of cases you do research into how the market sees your product, and you then tailor your adverts to change negative perceptions. Or if that's not possible, at least to distract from them.

      Hence the oil companies doing all these adverts with young engineers doing green stuff. Or the big banks pumping out all those post 2007 ads about how they believe in helping their customers and fairness. Heaven forfend they actually stop mis-selling or price-gouging - or even bother to apologise for when they've been caught doing it in the very recent past.

      So even a company that doesn't have a deliberate policy of being horribe to its staff, might still go the route of paying for some certificates to say how cuddly they are. Because it's very expensive and difficult to change your company culture and very easy to bung some awards body a few grand to say you're great.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'm sure these Best awards are paid for

        > It's like advertising

        It is not like advertising. It is advertising.

        And yes, of course it is paid. How do you think those award companies make money (even though they call themselves fancy names, they're usually a simple Ltd)?

        The only time when it is not paid is when you just give yourself an award, which also happens a lot.

    3. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse

      Re: I'm sure these Best awards are paid for

      Yes the plethora of meaningless industry awards have only really caught on because the organisers see it as easy cash, and the companies themselves see it as cheap marketing - rather than any of them really being worthy of an industry award. The process goes that you are invited, you pay your attendance / table fee, and only then do you get onto the nominations shortlist in terms of the promotional confetti and stuff like that.

      I know this as an ex of mine worked (for a very short time I might add) for a web startup that produced a really shonky web enabled corporate expenses solution which was basically an online calculator with a few drop downs and such like i.e. something I'd suppose that any decent HTML expert could write or code in a day or so; anyway, all of a sudden they were nominated for some meaningless award by some meaningless "awards organisation" which was actually ludicrous if you had actually seen or had the misfortune to use the product itself. And yes, it turns out that the guy who ran the company had paid a few thousand to attend and then "be nominated" (in that order).

      Anyway, they didn't win anything (unsurprisingly) and were out of business less than a year later which was great as the guy that ran it was a total prick.

    4. bobobobobobobo

      Re: I'm sure these Best awards are paid for

      It's also my experience that there is a strong correlation between being a ghastly place to work and having one of these awards. I expect getting one is often an HR or recruiting initiated exercise in response to the difficulty of hiring into such places once word gets out.

    5. tel2016

      Re: I'm sure these Best awards are paid for

      Dave Gorman did a piece about the 'Product of the Year' awards on 'Modern Life is Goodish':

      S3 Ep8 @ 30m16s if the link doesn't work

  9. disgruntled yank

    Spartan indeed

    Treat the employees like helots.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Spartan indeed

      Hopefully with a bit less spying and murder though...

      1. quxinot

        Re: Spartan indeed

        Read that as "spaying" and immediately thought that while I've worked in some bad jobs, it hasn't been that bad yet!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not only paid

    I work for a company that consistently wins awards in the Bay Area and expects all global employees to vote for it in the poll.

  11. Jonathon Green

    A couple of years ago we had a number of these “Spartans” interview as candidates for junior positions at the company I work for.

    The cookie cutter nature of the CVs, the obvious “Boot Camp” nature of the training, the obviously heavily coached responses to interview questions (hell, they even dressed pretty much the same, regardless of gender...) and discomfort when you tried to get them to go “off piste” from their canned responses, the generally creepy vibe about the whole enterprise, and the dubious nature of the contract terms gave me the raging heebie jeebies and I gave all the candidates a firm and unequivocal thumbs down with a recommendation that we should have nothing further to do with Sparta Global.

    Nothing I have heard since has made me remotely regret that decision. At the time I felt that the whole operation bordered on exploitative of young, inexperienced people, it seems my only mistake was in my assessment of which side of that border they were on...

  12. Danny 2

    Restriction of Trade

    A leading IT contractor threatened me with a £10k fine if I ever left them and worked for one of their clients, as was stated in their contract. My lawyer brother in law laughed and said, "Restriction of trade, it'd be thrown out of any court".

    1. Stoneshop

      Re: Restriction of Trade

      Hah. I went from being employed as a contractor, to independently contracting for the same client as they consistently failed to confirm my contract extension the client had explicitly requested multiple times. They then also failed to try and fine or sue me for violating their 'concurrentiebeding', which was just fine by me. Saved me the hassle of sending my end of the matter to a court, although having the case struck down would have been quite satisfying.

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        Re: Restriction of Trade

        @ Danny 2

        I had a similar clause in my contract. So when they made me redundant I was looking forward to them trying to enforce it and me saying "well, OK, but only if you pay me compensation for to working for a year, and, of course give me a list of all of your customers to which you wish this clause to apply."

        However, the administrator informed me that it would not apply as they were making me redundant (3 months pay for doing nothing at all).

        1. Shadow Systems

          Re: Restriction of Trade

          "3 months pay for doing nothing at all"? Is that all? Hell, I've known managers that have done that for decades! Must be nice getting paid to surf porn & lounge around in your knickers... =-Jp

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Restriction of Trade

            "I've known managers that have done that for decades!"

            That's probably best. It's when they start doing stuff that the trouble starts.

    2. bobobobobobobo

      Re: Restriction of Trade

      Assuming you're a sole proprietor, as you say, wouldn't last ten seconds in any English court. The more relevant problem is that the intermediary would have had a contract with whoever you were working for which would almost certainly have contained a non-solicitation clause. These are very definitely enforceable. I've hired a few people from from consultancies that were doing work for my company and it's always a difficult negotiation to balance their legitimate concern that we were about to poach an entire team and their other concern of not wanting to alienate an important client. Broadly, if you're one of a hundred people working for a long-term client, you'll likely be able to make the switch, if you're the lone contractor for a low-value account, you won't. A bit like, if you owe the bank $1000 and can't pay, you have a problem but, if you owe them $1,000,000 then they're the ones with the issue.

  13. cd

    It's become a model

    Here in the US, apart from using H1B's to get underpaid labor, there's an emerging model of "free" technical training followed by collecting a percentage of the student's paychecks after they get hired.

    And now there's even an aggregator of those,, to help one choose which indenture program to enter.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: It's become a model

      Become? Oh this has been going on for decades.

      It's a very old grift.

  14. N2


    They train Crapita personnel?

    1. David 132 Silver badge

      Re: Perhaps

      You think Crapita employees are trained? Oh, sweet summer child.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  15. six_tymes

    iv'e had similar done to me many years ago when I worked for federal express. I had the flu with a fever of 102.7 degrees, so i called out and went to the doctor, he gave prescriptions and told me I had "walking phenomena, and was dangerous"that I should not work for at least one week.I asked the doctor to write a letter of that so I could provide to my manager when I went back to work, after a week off, I was still sick but went back to work anyway, one week after that I started to feel better, and got called in to my managers office, she handed me a letter stating that I would be "let go" if I called out again, and that I was on "probation" and had to sign the letter. I worked for them for 4.5 years and only was 15 minutes late once, and called out only once before (for one day). Two weeks after that incident I quit. Another job, of 15 years, recently while my mother was dying, I asked to take off for a week to go see her, she lived far in another state, they made me go to HR prior to leaving for the week and write a letter of intent and sign it as to why I was taking off without pay. I was in tears writing that letter, shit media company well known in the US. Most people fault companies, it's the shit people that work there, I have found many higher up the ladder often do not know how bad managers and HR people treat employees.

    1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

      Manager knowledge

      @ six_tymes " I have found many higher up the ladder often do not know how bad managers and HR people treat employees"

      Well that is what they claim at the employment tribunals, Parliamentary Inquiries and judicial reviews. The fact is that it is their job to know, and to be responsible for improving things. I suspect that they do know, and just rely on their knowledge being unprovable.*

      *But I cannot prove it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Similar experience here. During the dot com boom I worked for one of the biggest of the new companies. One of my close friends died in an accident, and when I asked for the day off to attend the funeral I was told "no". So on the day I went to the office and told my manager I was going straight to a funeral and if he had a problem with that he could "f*ck off". Knowing I'd burned my bridges I then started looking for a new job the next day.

    3. eldel

      While not trying to devalue your (totally shit) experience - it's not always that way. About 15 years ago I was working for a large US multinational in California when I got the phone call from my mother telling me that my father was in hospital and was terminal. I was at work and desperately trying to find flights to the UK (in December - good luck with that) when my section manager overheard me and popped her head into my cube asking what was wrong. I told her and said I would try and get back in time to not exceed my holiday. Her response was "screw that - go take care of your mom".

      So yeah - it's generally about the people. When you have real humans running the local environment it's a good place to be.

      1. Jonathon Green

        ...but on the other hand when you’ve got decent corporate policies backed up by a proactive HR department it’s a lot harder for shitty local management to screw things up for you....

      2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        I knew a guy who worked for Japan Airlines in the UK. His daughter had a "life-limiting condition", but nobody could tell how long she'd live. They were generous with unexpected time off. Plus, once it got to the point that her health was declining faster (she still lived another 2 years) his boss put an alarm clock on his desk. It went off at 4:30 and nobody was allowed to give him any more work to do after that, so he could always leave on the dot of 5. Which seems a bit weird to me, but worked.

        After she died they flew his family over from Japan for the funeral and organised them a chauffeur and car for the week they were here.

  16. chivo243 Silver badge

    12+ years ago

    I was offered a similar contract. Pay back all training costs, can't work in the sector if I left before the contact was up.

  17. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    EDS (Ross Perot's company) was pulling this "You owe us a fortune if you resign because training" stunt thirty years ago. One of my contemporaries at university was trapped by them.

    1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

      re: EDS

      I think one of the UK's olympic swimmers was caught by that, and got sued by EDS when he left, and had to pay.

    2. disgruntled yank


      In 1992, I was working for a government contractor, and it astonished me to hear co-workers speak enthusiastically about Perot. Our own employer had recently cut our benefits, after getting us to sign on to win a renewal of the contract. And I think our tech writer had learned the hard way about EDS.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      AFAICR it was a sackable offence to discuss salaries. It seemed to me that that would provide an easy way out.

  18. StrangerHereMyself Silver badge

    See you in court

    If any employer tries these low-life tactics on you as an employee, simply sue them. Most likely they'll let you off the hook because the last thing they want is to get in a legal scuffle.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: See you in court

      Hard to sue when you no longer have income, innit?

    2. David Nash

      Re: See you in court

      "Simply sue"

      As if it's quick, easy, inexpensive and stress-free?

      Also, nobody wants to employ someone who has a history of suing their employer.

  19. martinusher Silver badge

    Not unusual

    I read about something similar in the US recently.

    Employers -- you give 'em an inch and they take liberties with you. This is where the entire 'independent contractor' thing makes it really sneaky because as an 'employee' you may actually have rights, even in one of those 'right to work' states in the US. As a sole trader you're powerless (and as for suing them -- you'll find buried in the paperwork somewhere something about 'arbitration' -- these guys are professionals, they're not going to miss that one).

  20. Hazmoid

    BOFH awards

    I can see that the BOFH has a hand in these award companies :)

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: BOFH awards

      He can't be. Otherwise the awards dinners would either be held in the local curry house, or Barbados. Rather than places like the Grosvenor House Hotel in London - which seems to be where all the ones in the building services engineering trade are.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What a bunch of corporate c.....


  22. Anonymous Coward

    Women in Tech organisation Awards...

    As ever with these awards, it’s all about mutual back-slapping, earning money for the award givers, and a boozy dinner.

    It is never about due diligence.

    Never trust anyone or any corporation that makes a big thing of awards. It’s all BS.

    And now we know, if we couldn’t already tell, that the Woman in Tech organisation is about as useful and meaningful as the Monkeys in Wetsuits organisation, which may or may not exist. But it will have a highly paid CEO.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Best Tech Employer of the Year (50-500 employees)" by the UK-based Women in Tech organisation

    This is not a jab at women, by the way, but personal observation from another European country: a bright spark created a "professional body", span it to the industry, and those that paid in most, coincidentally of course, got rewarded every year with a "gold", silver and bronze figurine and a title of a "Phallus of the Year..." (the actual award was a different... animal :). All that was heavily promoted in media and ticked happily for several years, until a particularly ungrateful journo started linking the dots and asking awkward questions. So there was a moment of uneasy, but then, they re-named the "competition" and the award, other than that, it's business as usual.

    p.s. I'm the Employer of The Year, every year (as per votes of my loyal workforce, that is, myself.)

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: "Best Tech Employer of the Year (50-500 employees)" by the UK-based Women in Tech organisation

      "my loyal workforce, that is, myself"

      Self is always the best employer.

  24. FlamingDeath Silver badge


  25. Sherrie Ludwig


    "They offer free tech training and are constantly running initiatives to address the gender balance."

    Yep, they are treating the genders equally badly, but dragging men down to the status of unpaid women's work is probably not what should be aimed for.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    this is becoming an increasingly familiar story in the uk as workers rights are steadily eroded. I walked out on my last employer after they U-turned on agreed flexible working and threatened to sack me if I left work to pick up my kids one day a week, having confirmed this 3 times prior to starting. My employer before them cut my wages by £3,000 for the 1st year to cover training I didn't receive or need for the role. Before them, I left a public sector role where private companies were allowed to bully and harass. I spoke to employment lawyers who told me it would take years to bring a constructive dismissal case as the courts are rammed with similar cases, and this in itself is a shocking reflection of the state of uk employment. If I was a stem graduate in 2021 I would be straight out of the uk.... or at least as soon as the airports re-open!

    1. Jaap Aap

      Where would you go then? (serious question)

    2. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

      Workers' rights won't help you if you make yourself a doormat and don't exercise them. For example, if you let your employer take £3k for nothing, that's on you.

      And whoever you spoke to clearly wasn't an actual employment lawyer, but an imposter.

      1. steviebuk Silver badge

        True but you're also endanger of getting black listed. But then that shouldn't stop people with real cases otherwise it will be the bullshit my mum always used to say "Don't rock the boat". Fuck that. If I'm being treated like shit I will rock the fucking boat and sink them if they deserve it.

        Rant over.

  27. swm

    Burger King

    My son worked briefly at Burger King on a summer break and then got a better job the next day. Burger King sent him through the standard training program. When he quit he received a check from Burger King for the hours spent during training.

    Surprised my son no end.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Burger King

      That's because your son has the potential to be a customer and most likely would spend a lot more £££ over a lifetime than they would get from him if he hated the job, was stiffed on his money and had seen rats in the kitchen.

      "I once worked for burger king and they were a good employer" by word of mouth from ex staff is worth its weight in gold because the staff are the customer demographic - treat staff badly and nobody wants to work for you ... treat staff well and there's a queue ...

      Not so applicable at the EDS/Crapita scale of things, the customer is not the same demographic as the staff ......

      1. conel

        Re: Burger King

        It's because decades old large corporations treat people properly compared with newer cynical firms using politics for cover.

        Went for an interview with Intel as a student for work placement and was shocked when I got a cheque in the mail for travel expenses, big bluechip firms don't do bullshit like this from Sparta Global.

        1. steviebuk Silver badge

          Re: Burger King

          IBM does.

  28. Roland6 Silver badge

    Will there be a second installment?

    I assume Mr N Ofonagoro will wait for Sparta Global to take him to court for non-payment of the £15k 'training' liability...

  29. steviebuk Silver badge

    Most industry awards

    are bollocks. A company I worked for got bullshit awards for their (can't remember the exact title) "Digital transformation low code applications" yet they hadn't actually fucking created any when the award was given. Clearly was an award for "A mate". Never trusted any of that shit since.

    1. Grease Monkey Silver badge

      Re: Most industry awards

      Bit like Obama being selected for the Nobel peace prize after having been on office for only 11 days and having done jack shit in that time

  30. Grease Monkey Silver badge


    Just goes to show that most of the awards handed out to businesses are done with no due diligence being carried out.

    I was sub contracting for a large company once when an all staff email came round. Basically the company had been nominated for a "best place to work" award and please could we all visit a web page to place our vote. Sounds fair enough, but then they asked if we could all ask our friends and family if they could vote too.

    I queried this with HR. Isn't it a little dishonest to ask people who aren't employees to vote? HR responded that there were much larger companies nominated and therefore we would stand no chance of winning. Basically it seemed that the award was simply decided on who got the most votes regardless of whether people were employees or not. Indeed it didn't seem that there was even the most basic of checks, such as checking the number of votes against the number of employees.

    I didn't trust these business awards before then. I trusted them even less after that experience.

  31. russthegibbon

    "My time at the Sparta Academy may have even overprepared me!"

    Let's see your code then, sunshine. I'd wager good money it would make my eyes bleed.

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