Getting paid when you leave a job

This advice applies to Scotland. See advice for See advice for England, See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Wales

If you haven’t been paid the right amount after leaving a job, you can take steps to get what you’re owed.

You need to act quickly - the deadline for taking action is usually 3 months less one day from when your employer should have paid you the money you’re owed. This is often the same date as your last pay date, but it’s a good idea to check the date your employer should have paid you what you’re owed, in case it was due on an earlier date.

On top of your basic pay, you could be owed:

  • holiday pay

  • sick pay - if you were off sick in your notice period

  • maternity, paternity, adoption or shared parental leave pay

  • redundancy pay

If you’re owed redundancy pay, your deadline for claiming is 6 months minus one day from the last day you were employed.

Your employer must pay you everything you’re owed in your last pay packet, even if you’ve been dismissed. If you owe them money they might be able to take it from your pay. 

You'll usually get your last pay on the date you're normally paid. For example, if you leave at the start of the month but are usually paid at the end of the month, you'll probably have to wait until then to get your final pay. Check with your employer if you're not sure.

If you haven't left your job yet, check with your employer to make sure:

  • you’ll be paid everything you’re owed, including for holiday you’re entitled to

  • you know if you owe your employer any money and how you’ll pay it back

Check your payslip

Start by checking your final payslip. This will help you see how your final pay was worked out. Check whether you've been paid for:

  • the number of hours you worked

  • any holiday you were owed

  • any notice or redundancy pay you were expecting

  • any sick pay you were expecting

  • any maternity, paternity, adoption or parental leave pay you were expecting

  • overtime, commission or bonus you were expecting

You should also check if your employer has deducted money you weren't expecting.

If you’re an employee or a worker, you have a legal right to a payslip to show how your pay has been worked out. If you get paid per hour, your payslip has to show how many hours you’ve worked.

If you haven’t got a payslip or your payslip doesn't show how your pay has been worked out, ask your employer to put this right. You can check if you’re an employee or check if you're a worker on GOV.UK.

Talk to your employer

If you think your final pay is wrong, try speaking informally to your former employer. If you can't get through on the phone, you could try emailing, writing a letter or phoning your old workplace's main telephone number. You could try speaking to the 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 don't agree with your employer's explanation, explain what you think the correct amount is and ask them to pay the money you're owed as soon as possible.

Common issues 

You've worked more hours than you've been paid for

If you’re paid by the hour, check if you’ve been paid for the number of hours you’ve worked in the time period your payslip covers.

Next steps

If you’ve been paid for the wrong number of hours, get evidence of the hours you’ve worked. You could use things like:

  • copies of old rotas

  • clocking-in records

  • emails from your employer confirming your shifts

This will help you challenge your former employer to get the money you’re owed.

You’re still owed holiday pay

If you leave part-way through the year, you might not have taken all the holiday you’re entitled to. 

Your employer has to pay you for any holiday you’re legally entitled to but haven’t taken. This is called pay in lieu of holiday. You can use the holiday entitlement calculator on GOV.UK to work out how much holiday you’re legally entitled to.

Check your employment contract to see if you’re entitled to more, eg it might say something like “Your basic annual leave entitlement is 20 days. You’re also entitled to 8 paid bank holidays.”

Your contract should say what happens to any contractual holiday you’ve built up but haven’t taken. You’re only entitled to be paid for it if your contract says so. If it doesn’t say anything, you’re unlikely to be paid. You could ask your employer if you can take the holiday as days off during your notice period.

Next steps

If you’re still owed holiday pay, get together any evidence that will support what you’re saying. You could use: 

  • a print-out of your results from the holiday entitlement calculator

  • a copy of your contract saying how much holiday you’re entitled to

  • a list showing the holiday you've already taken

This will help you challenge your employer to get the money you’re owed.

You haven’t been paid redundancy pay

If you’ve been made redundant, you'll usually be entitled to redundancy pay if you've worked for your employer for at least 2 years. You can check your entitlement to redundancy pay and what to do if you don't get it.

Your employer has deducted money from your pay

If you owe your employer money, they can usually only take it out of your final pay if your contract says they can. This could include money you owe for:

  • holiday you’ve taken but weren’t entitled to - you can use the holiday entitlement calculator on GOV.UK to check if this applies to you

  • contractual maternity pay, if you didn’t go back to work after getting extra maternity pay

  • fees for courses your employer paid for

  • loans from your employer

The only time your employer can take money without an agreement in your contract is for wages you were previously overpaid.

Next steps

Check your contract to see what it says about paying your former employer back. If it doesn’t say your employer can deduct money from your pay, they’re not allowed to.

If you think they've taken money wrongly, you can take steps to get it back.

You haven't been paid sick pay

Check what you can do if your employer refuses to give you sick pay.

If you’re sick during your notice period, you might be entitled to sick pay or your normal pay. 

Working out how much you should have been paid can be complicated. It's a good idea to talk to an adviser.

You haven't been paid maternity, paternity, adoption or shared parental leave pay

If you qualified for any kind of statutory parental leave on the date your job ended, you should get it even if you leave your job. Your employer should keep paying it until you're no longer eligible. You won't have to pay it back.

For example, if you worked for your employer for 26 weeks before your qualifying week, you're entitled to 39 weeks' statutory maternity pay, even if you leave your job. Your employer should still pay it to you, even if you resign before your SMP starts.

If your employer gives you more maternity pay on top of your statutory entitlement, check your contract. It might say you need to pay some of it back if you don't return to work. You can only be asked to pay back anything extra you got on top of your statutory pay.

You can check if you're entitled to statutory parental pay and read your options at the end of maternity leave.

Your employer has gone out of business

It can be difficult to get money you're owed if your employer goes out of business. Your options depend on how they've gone out of business.

If your employer has just stopped trading, you can take steps to get some of the money you're owed.

If they've gone out of business, which could be called bankruptcy, administration or liquidation, you can claim some of the money from the government. You might not get it all back - there's a limit to how much you can claim.

You might be contacted by the person in charge of sorting out money the business still owes. They're called an 'insolvency practitioner'. They'll help you claim from the government and will add you to the list of people the business owes money to. However, you still might not get everything you're owed.

You can check what steps to take to claim money your employer owes you on GOV.UK.

If talking to your employer doesn't work

If you haven't left your job yet, you could raise a grievance. This is a way of formally raising a problem at work - your employer can't ignore it.

Check if your employer has got a grievance procedure for you to follow - you might find details in your staff handbook or intranet.

If your employer doesn't have a grievance procedure or you've already left your job, try writing them a letter.

It should include:

  • the date you left

  • how much you think they owe you and how you've worked it out

  • when you expect to be paid

  • copies of any evidence you've got to back up your argument

You might be able to get help from a trade union or other organisations. They could negotiate for you or go to meetings with you. This could give you a greater chance of success.

You can read more about raising a grievance.

If you can't contact your former employer

If your employer has stopped trading or moved, you can try these methods to find them:

Get help from Acas and early conciliation

If writing to your employer doesn't solve the problem, you can contact Acas. It provides free independent support for employment disputes.

Get in touch with Acas as soon as you can - the deadline is 3 months minus a day from when your employer should have paid you.

They'll see if your employer will agree to a process called early conciliation - this means they'll help you talk to your former employer and try to resolve the dispute informally.

You can apply for early conciliation on the Acas website and read more about using early conciliation.

If you don't reach an agreement through Acas early conciliation, you can make a claim to an employment tribunal. You need to have tried early conciliation before you can go to a tribunal. Acas will give you a certificate that you need before you can start a tribunal claim.

If it's more than 1 month since the date on the Acas certificate you might be out of time for a tribunal claim - but you might be able to sue your employer in the courts instead.

You should get advice from your nearest Citizens Advice about your options.