When you don’t receive all the wages you have earned, the first step is to bring it to your employer’s attention, as hopefully it was only a mistake. However, if it turns out you’re a victim of wage theft, unlawful deductions, shortened hours, or more, you have rights.
Check your payslip
You should start by checking your payslip, if you’ve got one. This will help you see how your pay has been worked out. Check things like:
- If you’ve been paid for overtime, commission or bonus
- If you’ve been paid at the correct rate
- If your employer has deducted any money that you weren’t expecting
- Whether you’ve been paid for the number of hours you’ve actually worked
- Whether you’ve been paid any sick pay, holiday pay or maternal pay that you were expecting
If you’re an employee, you have the legal right to a payslip which shows how your pay has been worked out. If you don’t have a payslip, ask your employer. If you’re classed as a worker, you can still ask your employer for a payslip or an explanation of how your pay has been worked out.
Speak to your employer
Try speaking informally to your employer if you’re having problems with your pay. You could also try speaking to your human resources or payroll department, if there is one. Ask them to explain anything you don’t understand on your payslip or why you haven’t been paid. If you disagree with anything, explain why. If your employer has made a genuine mistake, ask them to pay you the money you’re owed straight away. You shouldn’t have to wait until your next pay day.
The most common problems with wages are:
- Your employer has deducted money from your wages
- You’ve paid too much tax
- You haven’t been paid holiday pay
- You haven’t been paid for a while
- You haven’t been paid for all the hours you’ve worked
- You haven’t been paid for time off sick or parental leave
- Your employer has gone out of business
If you’re not getting anywhere
If even after speaking to your employer about your unpaid wages nothing is done, you have other options to pursue. These are:
File a claim
To expedite your claim, please ask the employer for your unpaid wages. For quickest results, it is prudent to send a CERTIFIED letter RETURN RECEIPT REQUESTED to the employer stating the amount of money owed, identifying the hours and days or commissions this money represents, and requesting payment by a specific deadline (such as 15 days from the receipt of the certified letter).
If the employer still does not pay, mail a completed claim form with the receipt showing receipt of your certified letter by the employer, to the Employment Standards Service (ESS). ESS will the conduct an independent investigation and work diligently to collect and pay any monies which may be due to you.
File a lawsuit
If the court finds that wages were withheld in violation of the law, and not as a result of bona fide dispute, the court may award damages of up to three times the amount of the unpaid wages plus attorney fees.
File criminal charges
Under certain circumstances, criminal penalties are imposed on an employer who deliberately fails to pay the wage of an employee without a valid reason, or provides employment with the intent not to pay.
If you feel you have questions, take our quick questionnaire to determine your eligibility for benefits.