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Employment tribunals - winning a claim if your employer owes you money

This advice applies to Wales

It's important to work out whether you will have a reasonable chance of winning your case before you start the process.

These pages tell you more about how to assess your chances of winning a claim if you're owed money by your employer.

Wages claims

If you're owed unpaid wages, you'll have a reasonable chance of winning if you can prove:

  • you are, or were, a worker. If you’re self-employed you can’t claim wages through an Employment Tribunal
  • the money you are owed is something you can claim for in the Employment Tribunal
  • you’re entitled to the money you're claiming. You will need to prove you worked the hours and weren’t paid for them, or that your employer prevented you from working when they had no right to do so
  • your employer did not have a legal right to withhold your pay, or the deductions were unauthorised.

Unauthorised deductions

Unauthorised deductions mean that the employer had no right to take the money from you. An employer is allowed to make authorised deductions, for example:

  • legal deductions, such as tax and national insurance
  • deductions agreed in your contract
  • deductions not in your contract that you have agreed with your employer
  • deductions to repay the employer for having overpaid you wages in the past.

If the deduction wasn't for any of these reasons, it's likely to be an unauthorised deduction.

If you go to a tribunal, your employer might try to say the deductions were authorised as a defence. It's therefore important that you have paperwork to prove your claim. Or you can give a good argument why you think the employer should not have deducted the money from your pay. You should check any written contract you have been given, and any staff handbooks to see whether these give your employer a right to make deductions from your pay.

Proving an unpaid wages claim

It will help your case if you can provide the paperwork to support your claim. Examples of paperwork include:

  • wages slips
  • time sheets
  • bank statements that prove the money didn't go into your account.

If you haven't kept the paperwork, you can ask your employer or your bank to provide copies. You have a legal right to a payslip. If your employer won't do this, they are breaking the law and it could be used as evidence that they have something to hide.

Time limits

You must make your claim within three months of the last time your employer: 

  • made an unauthorised deduction from your pay 
  • did not pay you at all when they should have

The claim will only cover deductions made in the previous two years. This two-year period is counted from the date you make your claim.

Notice Pay

If you agreed to leave your job, you may have been entitled to notice pay. The amount of notice you’re entitled to will either depend on what’s written in your contract or what you’re legally entitled to under employment law.

If you continue working your normal hours you should get your normal wages until you leave. If you don’t then you make can make a claim for unpaid notice pay.

Pay in lieu of notice

Pay in lieu of notice is money you're owed if you and your employer agree you can leave before your notice period ends.

If you aren’t paid the correct amount of pay in lieu of notice you may be able to make a claim for breach of contract or wrongful dismissal.

Redundancy pay

Your claim will have a good chance of success if you can prove that:

  • you were an employee. If you’re self-employed, an agency worker or casual worker, you may not be able to make a claim
  • you have been dismissed
  • you had at least two years’ service
  • you were dismissed because there was a genuine redundancy situation in your workplace
  • if your employer offered you another job and you turned it down, you must prove that the job was not suitable for you, or that it was reasonable for you to refuse it, for example because of extra travel time or costs.

If you think the selection for redundancy could be unfair, it's possible you may have a claim for unfair dismissal, discrimination, or both. If you're not sure, it's best to seek advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau before the time limit runs out.

Proving a claim for redundancy pay

You should also be able to confirm your employment has ended and have worked out a calculation for the redundancy payment you think you're owed. You may have letters from your employer telling you about this.

More about redundancy pay

Holiday pay

If you're owed holiday pay, you must be able to prove that you hadn't taken all the days you're employer says you did and that you weren't paid for them.

Proving a claim for holiday pay

You should ask your employer for a copy of your holiday records. It may simply be a misunderstanding that you can sort out without going to a tribunal.

If your employer refuses to give you a copy of your records, or still disputes what you say, you will have to provide evidence that you were in work on the days in question. Colleagues or your manager may be able to confirm this. You might have to ask them to provide a witness statement.

  • Use the GOV.UK holiday calculator to work out your holiday entitlement, available at www.gov.uk

Which payments can’t you make a claim for?

The most common types of payments that you can’t claim as wages are

  • expenses
  • Statutory Sick Pay
  • Statutory Maternity Pay

Is your employer financially stable?

Perhaps the reason why you've not been paid the money you're owed is because your employer has financial problems. If it's unlikely that you'd get the money even if you won your claim, you might want to think about the time and effort of going to a tribunal.

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