My employer owes me money, what can I do?

19 May 2021

If you are owed unpaid wages or if unauthorised deductions have been made from your earnings, you may be able to take your employer (or former employer) to an Employment Tribunal.

Unpaid wages or pay

There are two main reasons why an employer may owe an employee money. The first is if the correct wages haven't been paid.

If you have found yourself in this situation, it may be that you have received some of your salary, but not the correct amount. Or it may be that you did not receive your final pay after you left the organisation.

Alternatively, it may be that you are due to receive other money which your employer is withholding from you, such as bonus pay, sick pay or holiday pay.

Unauthorised deductions

The second reason why an employer may owe an employee money is if unauthorised deductions have been made from the employee’s wages.

There are certain authorised deductions that may be made from an employee’s wages, including:

  • Tax and national insurance contributions
  • Pension contributions
  • Overpaid wages
  • Deductions agreed with an employer (such as unpaid leave)

But if your employer has deducted money from your wages and you believe this to be unauthorised, there are steps that you can take.

What to do if your employer owes you money

If you believe that your employer owes you money, the first thing you should do is raise the issue directly with your employer. After all, it's possible that it's a simple mistake that can be quickly rectified. Also, by letting your employer know that you're prepared to take action to obtain your money, this could be incentive enough for them to resolve the matter.

You should set out your concerns in writing; either in an email or a letter. Either way, you should keep a copy for yourself just in case you need to use the correspondence as evidence later down the line. If you're a member of a Trade Union you may also want to contact them for advice.

If your employer still refuses to pay the money you are owed, your next option is take them to an Employment Tribunal. However, before you do this you will have to attempt ACAS Early Conciliation. ACAS is an independent third party which will try to help you resolve the dispute without the need to go to an Employment Tribunal.

If ACAS Early Conciliation proves unsuccessful, you can then proceed to an Employment Tribunal. At the Employment Tribunal a Judge will decide whether or not your employer owes you money and, if so, how much. Your employer will then be ordered to pay the money owed, together with interest if they don't pay you promptly.

Claims for unpaid wages or unauthorised deductions are subject to a time limit of three months minus one day. This time limit starts from the date on which your employer should have paid the money to you. The clock will stop during ACAS Early Conciliation proceedings, but will begin again once they have come to an end. So if you're thinking about making a claim against your employer (or former employer) it's important that you act quickly.

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