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Unauthorised deductions from your wages

Deductions from wages

A deduction from wages is when you are paid less than the total amount that you are due. The law provides the criteria for when a deduction from your wages or salary can be made lawfully by your employer. Any situation that falls outside of the criteria will be an unauthorised or unlawful deduction, and you will have the right to pursue a claim in the employment tribunal.

It is an implied term of your employment contract that your employer will pay your wages. In return, you must be ready and willing to perform all of your obligations under the employment contract.  Generally, it does not matter whether there is any work for you to do. You are still entitled to pay if you are unable to work through no fault of your own – Miller v Hanworthy Engineering [1986]. You and your employer are free to make any legal arrangements on pay, but your wages must not be less that the National Minimum Wage if you are under 25 or the National Living Wage if you are over 25. You are not entitled to pay for any period of time when you can work, but refuse to work.

Part 2 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA 1996) gives you protection against unlawful deductions from wages. This protection extends to those working under a contract of employment, apprentices and individuals who are undertaken to personally perform work or services. Serving members of the armed forces are specifically excluded from the provisions of Part II ERA 1996.


Making a claim

You must make a claim for a specific amount of money in your grievance. If you are not sure about the amount, then your claim does not fall under an unlawful deduction under the Employment Rights Act 1996, and you must make a claim for breach of contract instead, or make your claim in the county court. Under the Deduction from Wages (Limitation) Regulations 2014 claims for deductions from wages are limited to two years from the date of the deduction.


Heads up!

  • If you think you have been underpaid, or that your employer has made an unlawful deduction from your wages, use this guide to understand your rights before taking any action.
  • Check whether it is a lawful deduction
  • Check your pay slip and contract of employment for an explanation
  • Ask your employer if they have possibly made a mistake. If so they should pay you what is owed as soon as possible.
  • If your employer does not make the payment keep a detailed diary and include any expenses you have incurred, such as the interest on any loan you had to take out to manage the shortfall or any bank charges.
  • Put the details in your grievance which should explain the net amount you believe that you are owed and on what basis you are making the claim.
  • Send the letter to your employer. If you send it by email, include a read receipt, and also post a hard copy by recorded delivery and keep a copy for your records.

Updated: 01/03/2020

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