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Can an Employer Dock my Pay?


As an employee, it’s natural to feel some fear about the security of your job or salary. Many workers worry that their salary will be docked for a number of reasons, such as turning up to work late, missing a meeting, a customer not paying and so forth.

While there are indeed certain situations in which an employer is legally allowed to dock your pay, there are also provisions in place to ensure employees are treated fairly and ethically.

In place is the Employment Rights Act 1996, which prevents “unlawful deduction from wages”. Should an employer breach the conditions within the Act, a worker would be legally allowed to make a claim with an employment tribunal regarding the unpaid money.

It goes one better too; the Act includes a wide category of workers, including the self-employed in such situations as their relationship is identical to that of being an employee except in name.

The critical thing for any employee is to review the contract before signing it. If you have already signed it, check it over and see where you stand. The law does allow employers to cut your wages if you turn up late because of disruptions to public transport, such as if your train was late, and other unforeseen reasons.

However, this is waived if the contract says otherwise – so if your employer tries to dock your pay because you turned up late but your contract states the company will not allow this, you can argue that it is not allowed. Furthermore, unless a contract references other deductions or penalties that can be applied in certain situations, nothing else can be applied in the instance of arriving late.

Generally speaking, an employer will need to justify any deductions where the contract does not give them the right to do so, but there are situations in which an employer can deduct your salary.

One of these is where a deduction is authorised by statute, and this means your tax deductions. The second is where you have previously been overpaid and the excess is deducted from the next payment. The third is deductions from your possible involvement in a strike or other industrial action. These are fair deductions that result in you being paid what you have agreed to be paid, except the instance of tax, which is a legal deduction as set by the government.

If you feel that you are being docked unfairly, it is worth looking into because there have been instances of employers unfairly cutting pay. One surprising example was the case of a town hall cutting five minutes’ salary from a Muslim employee because he stopped to pray.

This led to the union arguing that the Muslim employee was treated unfairly and out of keeping with how people who smoke or use the toilet more frequently than others are treated.

Employees also need to be aware that ‘wages’ don’t start and end with your salary; rather, it includes benefits like sick and holiday pay, bonuses and commission, and even a promised pay rise that is later denied. This information is probably unknown to many if not most workers, and they could be deduced unlawfully without even knowing it.

If you find yourself in a situation where your salary has had deductions made unlawfully then your entitlement is to be paid the missing sum and possibly extra compensation to make up for the financial loss suffered.

That being said, you don’t want to fight so hard for 50 only for your boss to find a reason to fire you because of the animosity. Therefore, the best course of action is not to go straight to a union or court, but to resolve the matter with your employer in a friendly and professional manner.


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