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Getting paid if your employer goes out of business or disappears

Mae’r cyngor hwn yn berthnasol i Cymru

There are things you can do to get any money your employer owes you.

You’ll need to start by checking whether your employer is officially ‘insolvent’ - this means they can’t pay their debts.

If your employer is insolvent, you’ll usually be contacted by an ‘insolvency practitioner’ - they’re the person in charge of your employer’s debts. They should contact you soon after your employer is made insolvent. They’ll tell you what will happen and how to get any pay your employer owes you.

If your employer isn’t insolvent, there are still things you can do - for example take them to the employment tribunal. In some situations you might want to apply to make them insolvent.

It’s a good idea to stay in contact with the people you worked with. If you’re a member of a trade union, you should also stay in contact with your representative. You might be able to share information about the situation.

If you haven’t been contacted by an insolvency practitioner

You’ll need to check if your employer is insolvent. If they’re insolvent, you’ll also need to get the contact details of the insolvency practitioner.

There are different ways to check your employer’s status depending on whether your employer is a company, a sole trader or a partnership.

If your employer is a company

You should start by finding the company’s legal name - this might be different from the name they trade under. If you’re not sure, check your employment contract or your pay slips. You can also find their name by setting up or signing into your personal tax account on GOV.UK.

Check your employer’s status on the Companies House register on GOV.UK. If they’re insolvent, their status will be one of the following:

  • in administration
  • in liquidation
  • in receivership
  • company voluntary arrangement

If the register says your employer is insolvent, it should also have the contact details of the insolvency practitioner. Contact the insolvency practitioner as soon as possible and explain your situation.

If the register doesn’t say your employer is insolvent, it’s worth ‘following’ the company. This means you’ll automatically be sent updates if their status changes. Click the ‘Follow this company’ button and follow the instructions.

If your employer’s status is ‘Proposal to strike the company off the register’

This usually means your employer is trying to end the company without being made insolvent. If this happens, you can’t get any money from them.

You should object to the company being struck off the register as soon as possible. Say you object because your employer owes you money.

You’ll need to provide documents that show you’ve tried to get the money you’re owed. For example you can provide a grievance letter or an employment tribunal claim form.

The documents must be less than 6 months old and include your employer’s full legal name - for example including the word ‘Limited’ at the end.

The quickest way to object is to use the Companies House online portal - you’ll need to set up an account. You can also object by email or post.

Check how to object to a proposal to strike off on GOV.UK.

If your employer is a sole trader or a partnership

Check if your employer is on the Individual Insolvency Register on the Insolvency Service website. If your employer has a trading name, search for it as well as their actual name.

Your employer is insolvent if the register says that either:

  • they’re bankrupt
  • they have an individual voluntary arrangement (IVA)

If the register says your employer is insolvent, it should also have the contact details of the insolvency practitioner. Contact the insolvency practitioner as soon as possible and explain your situation.

If your employer is insolvent

You can claim some of the money your employer owes you from the Redundancy Payments Service - this is a government service. You can claim:

  • up to 8 weeks’ unpaid wages
  • pay for annual leave - including annual leave you were owed but didn’t take

Your unpaid wages include any statutory payments you should have been paid, for example statutory sick pay or statutory maternity pay.

There’s a maximum amount you can get for a week's unpaid wages or annual leave. If your employment ended on or after 6 April 2022, you can’t claim more than £643 for each week. If your employment ended between 6 April 2021 and 5 April 2022, you can’t claim more than £544.

Applying to the Redundancy Payments Service

The insolvency practitioner will give you a case reference number called a ‘CN number’. You’ll need to use the CN number to claim the money your employer owes you. You’ll usually get the money within 6 weeks of applying.

Apply for money your employer owes you on GOV.UK.

If you’re entitled to statutory notice pay and your employer didn’t pay it, you’ll need to make a second claim for it. The insolvency practitioner will give you another case reference number called an ‘LN number’. They’ll only give it to you after your notice period should have ended.

Apply for statutory notice pay on GOV.UK.

If the insolvency practitioner doesn’t believe you were employed by your employer

You’ll need to take your employer to the employment tribunal for the money they owe you.

It’s important to write to the insolvency practitioner first and ask for written permission to take your employer to the tribunal. The insolvency practitioner should give you permission.

You must start the process of applying to the tribunal within 3 months minus 1 day from when your employment ended. Check if you can apply to the employment tribunal.

When the tribunal decides that you were an employee, send a copy of the judgement to the insolvency practitioner. They should then give you the reference number so you can apply to the Redundancy Payments Service.

If the insolvency practitioner doesn’t think you’re redundant

You’ll have to take your employer to the employment tribunal to show you’re redundant.

It’s important to write to the insolvency practitioner first and ask for written permission to take your employer to the tribunal. The insolvency practitioner should give you permission.

You must start the process of applying to the tribunal within 3 months minus 1 day from when your employment ended. Check if you can take your employer to the employment tribunal.

If your employer still owes you money

If your employer owes you money that you can’t get from the Redundancy Payments Service, the insolvency practitioner should help you register as a creditor. This means you might get some more money if there’s any left when your employer is fully shut down.

If your employer isn’t insolvent

You might have to take your employer to the employment tribunal to get the money they owe you.

To claim a redundancy payment, you must start the process of applying to the tribunal within 6 months minus 1 day from when your employment ended. If you want to claim other payments like unpaid wages, you must start the process within 3 months minus 1 day. Check if you can apply to the employment tribunal.

If you have time and you still have contact details for your employer, it’s worth sending them a letter or email. Say in the letter or email that it’s an official grievance and explain what they owe you. This means there’s an official record. You can use our sample grievance letter.

If your employer owes you redundancy pay, you can also suggest they apply to the government for a loan to pay you statutory redundancy pay. You can send them a link to the government guidance about financial assistance for employers on GOV.UK.

If your employer still won’t pay you after you’ve got a tribunal judgment

If the tribunal decide you’re entitled to a redundancy payment, you can apply to get the payment from the Redundancy Payments Service - this is a government service.

You can apply for money from the Redundancy Payments Service on GOV.UK. You won’t have a reference number because your employer isn’t insolvent. You might find it easier to call or email them using the details on that page rather than filling in the form.

If your employer owes you other money and you believe they can’t pay their debts, you can apply to make them insolvent. This is complicated, so you’ll need to get help from a solicitor.

Making a person or company insolvent can be expensive. It’s most likely to be worth it if you share the cost with other people you worked with.

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