My employer says I owe them money. What can I do?
When you leave a job, your employer can only ask you to pay back money if it’s for something you’ve specifically agreed to in writing.
Even if you do owe your employer money, they can only take it from your pay if there’s a written agreement to say they can.
Check if you owe your employer money
Your employer could say you owe them money for things like:
- loans, like a travel season ticket loan or car loan
- holiday pay
- training and educational courses they paid for
- contractual maternity pay – this is extra pay which often has conditions about returning to work for a certain time after maternity leave
Check your contract or any other written agreements to see what they say about when you’ll owe your employer money if you leave your job. For example, you might have signed an agreement for a season ticket loan saying you’d pay it all back if you leave before it’s paid off.
Jo is a social worker and recently handed in her notice. 18 months ago her employer paid for her to attend a course to help her become fully qualified. Her contract says she must pay back any tuition costs if she doesn’t stay with her employer for 2 years after completing a course.
Jo’s employer is allowed to ask her to pay back the costs of the course.
If Jo had delayed resigning until 2 years after finishing the course, she wouldn’t have had to pay her employer back.
If your employer says you’ve taken too much holiday
The first thing you should do is check your holiday record to see if it reflects the holidays you’ve taken.
Check your contract or if there’s a written agreement that says what you have to do if you’ve taken too much holiday when you leave a job. It might say you have to pay your employer back or work extra days without pay. Your employer can only make you pay them back or work extra days if there’s a written agreement.
If it is in writing – for example in your contract or a written agreement – check if it also says your employer can take the money you owe them from your final wages.
If it doesn’t, then your employer doesn’t have a legal right to deduct money from your final pay, even if you’re required to repay the holiday or work extra hours. If they do deduct it, it’s an unauthorised deduction even if you owe them money.
If the employer doesn’t deduct it from your final pay and you don’t pay it back, your employer is entitled to take you to court to get it.
If your employer is asking for money you don’t owe
It’s best to talk to your employer as soon as possible, especially if you think they might take money out of your pay. Explain why you think they’ve made a mistake – refer to your contract or terms and conditions if you need to.
Don’t ignore your employer if they’re asking you to pay back money. If you don’t pay, they could take you to court.
The court will look at your contract and any other written agreements to decide if you owe the money. If you do, they’ll probably order you to pay it back.
If you can’t pay your employer back in one go
If you do owe the money, check what your contract says about how you need to pay your employer back. They’re not allowed to take money out of your pay unless your contract says they can, even if you do owe it.
If your employer is allowed to take the money from your pay but this would cause you financial problems, speak to them as soon as possible. Explain why you can’t afford to pay so much in one go and offer to pay the money in instalments.
Where your employer doesn’t have an agreement with you to take money from your pay, you’ll need to speak to them to make an arrangement to pay. Ask if you can pay it back in instalments.
If you’re in a trade union, they might be able to give you support. For example, they might be able to negotiate with your employer or go to a meeting with you.
If your employer has taken money from your pay
Check your final payslip to make sure you’ve been paid everything you expected. If your employer has taken money without a written agreement to say they can, you might be able to get it back.
Start by talking to your employer. Explain why you think they’ve wrongly taken money from your pay and ask them to pay you the money back as soon as possible. If they refuse to pay you back, you might be able to make a claim for unauthorised deductions from wages to an employment tribunal.
The only time your employer can take money without any written agreement is to take back an earlier overpayment of wages.
If you’re struggling financially because you had to pay your employer money
- You want to see if you can claim benefits (if you haven’t started a new job yet);
- You’re worried about getting into debt;
- You don’t have enough money to live on after leaving your job
then you can go to www.citizensadvice.org.uk and use our benefits checker and/or budgeting tool. You can also get advice about any debts you have already or find out more about food banks and other help in your area.
You can also get help from your nearest Citizens Advice office on any of the above matters.