My Employer Owes Me Money

Caragh Bailey
7 min read
My Employer Owes Me Money from Employment Law Friend: An open, empty coin purse

Underpaid at work, what are my rights?

Not getting paid, or not getting paid right, is a practical and mental nightmare. You can't pay for the things you were planning to pay for, in some cases this poses a real threat to your living situation, and if that weren't bad enough, you feel frustrated, disrespected and powerless.

Keep calm and keep reading, if your employer has not paid your wages, or has taken unlawful deductions from your wages, you may have an employment law case. Below are some examples:

Unpaid Wages
Unlawful Deductions
  • Your wages have not been paid
  • Your have only been paid part of what you are due
  • You have not been paid your sick pay, holiday pay or bonus pay
Certain deductions are allowed:
  • Tax and National Insurance
  • Student loan repayments
  • Pension contributions
  • Overpaid wages
  • Deductions that you have agreed to (such as unpaid leave)
  • Your employer cannot take other deductions which you have not agreed to in your contract or in writing.

What can you do if your employer owes you money?

Here's how to deal with being underpaid:

    Choose whether you want to go through Tribunal or to Civil court
Before you know whether you have time to raise a grievance, you'll need to check that you have time. You can check your time limit for the employment tribunal here.

Alternatively, unpaid wages and unlawful deductions can go to the civil court, with a time limit of six years. However, the court process can be a bit more expensive.

There are some other things you should consider when deciding whether to bring your case to the employment tribunal or to court, including the limit on your award, if you win.

    Raise a Grievance
The first action you should take is to raise the issue with your employer. If you think it was a genuine mistake you can start with an informal chat. If this doesn't get you your money, or you want to go straight to a formal option, and you have enough time, you can raise a formal grievance.

Civil Court
    Notify Acas
If you do not get your money through raising a grievance, or if your grievance is still ongoing and you're running out of time to go to tribunal, you'll need to notify ACAS next. You have to tell them that you want to make a claim and they'll offer you early conciliation. Early conciliation is an impartial service which aims to help you and your employer resolve your dispute without going to tribunal. If you or your employer refuse early conciliation they'll give you a certificate which allows you to submit your claim to the Employment Tribunal.

If you've decided to go to court instead, you can read about the courts process here.

Read about notifying ACAS and early conciliation

    Submit your ET1
In order to put your claim forward to the employment tribunal, you must submit an ET1 form to set out your case. You'll need to use the number from your ACAS certificate. It can be helpful to have a solicitor put your ET1 together, as it's important to include the right information in order to win your case. Your solicitor will be able to tell you if you have any supporting claims which can be made at the same time, such as discrimination. These need to be included if you want to rely on them in your hearing.

    Submit your claim form
If you are bringing your claim to court you may have your case heard by the county court or the high court. This will depend on the amount of your claim. You make your claim to the court you choose (it is important to pick the right one) using the relevant claim form. It contains:
  • The court reference number
  • The parties to the proceedings (you, your employer)
  • What is being claimed (breach of contract, personal injury due to negligence, etc)
  • Details of the claim, including any money you're seeking (If its very complicated you can attach the details separately)

You, or your solicitor give this form to the court, along with a request that they issue a claim form. They will then give this to your employer.

Can I win more money from tribunal or from court?
This question is much more complex than 'What is the maximum award at employment tribunal vs court?'
The employment tribunal cannot award more than 52 weeks' pay, but, as you can see in our comparison table above, it has much lower caps in certain cases.
For example: In breach of contract claims it cannot award more than £25 000. The civil court has less restrictions on how much it can award, but that does not mean you will win more.

The answer will depend on your individual case and what claims you are bringing. unfortunately there is no easy one-size-fits-all answer to this one, we recommend that you get legal advice specific to your case.

Can I sue my employer for not paying me correctly?

As we've seen above, there are other avenues to explore first when faced with the problem 'My employer owes me money'. However, if it comes down to it, you can sue your employer for not paying you correctly. Beware though, if your employer can show that you contributed toward the dispute, you may find that even if you win the claim, your award (the money you are ordered) is reduced considerably, as you can see in the case of Mr Haq v Irfan Qadir.

Before you go ahead, you should consider how much your employer owes you and whether it is worth the hassle: Should I sue my employer?

Get in touch with us today for a review of your case, and expert legal advice on what you should do next.

Frequently Asked Questions
You can still pursue a tribunal or court claim if you are no longer employed. Your time limit will begin on the most recent date that your employer could have paid you, if you have faced a series of deductions, this date it the last pay check which was subject to unlawful deductions. You can follow all of the advice in this article with your time limit in mind.
Where your employer has acted fraudulently, lying or hiding the money the owe you, you can claim for compensation for fraud in the civil courts under the 'Tort of Deceit'. You will need to show that:
  • Your employer made a false representation to you
  • Your employer knows that the representation is false, alternatively, they are reckless as to whether it is true or false.
  • Your employer intended that you should act in reliance on it.
  • You did act in reliance on the representation and, in consequence, suffered loss.
If your employer has run out of money and dissolved the company - Depending on your situation, you can apply to the government for:

The company can only be dissolved if the Directors decide to dissolve the company, or, a third party could petition for its compulsory dissolution. The third party is usually Companies House, who may raise the petition by non-compliance to filing accounts or annual statements. There is then a 3 month period for any other person(s) to make objections.

My employer owes me money

There is much more to winning your case than simply being in the right, our specialist employment solicitors know all the laws and tactics, to make sure you get the best chance at a fair settlement. Get in contact with us and see how we can help.

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This content is provided free of charge for information purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. No responsibility for the accuracy and/or correctness of the information and commentary set out in the article, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed or accepted by any member of our company. For employment law advice please get in contact and speak to your employment law solicitors.
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