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Solving property disputes when you leave a job

This advice applies to England

When you leave your job you’ll need to give back anything that belongs to your employer. This could include:

  • laptop or computer equipment
  • tools
  • mobile phone
  • company car
  • uniform
  • work documents

Your employer must also let you pick up anything that’s yours, like items left in your desk or tools you provided yourself.

If you disagree about who owns property

Don’t ignore your employer if they’re asking for property back, even if you think the items are yours. 

Check to see if you have any proof you own the items. For example:

  • written confirmation from your employer saying the items were yours to keep
  • a receipt from when you bought the items

If you haven’t got any evidence, check your contract and any other terms and conditions to make sure there’s nothing to say your employer owns the items. If your employer lent them to you so you could do your job but there’s nothing to say you own them, you should give the items back.

If you’re sure the items belong to you, tell your employer you won’t give them back unless they show you evidence they’re not yours.

Sometimes an employer might say they’ll take money from your pay to cover the cost of the items. They’re not allowed to do this unless your contract specifically says they can. Check what to do if your employer is threatening to take money from your pay.

If your employer really believes the items belong to them, they could decide to take you to court. The court would look at the evidence to decide whether or not you have to give them back.

You should get advice from your nearest Citizens Advice about what to do if your employer is threatening to take you to court.

If your employer won’t let you have your belongings back

Your employer should return anything that belongs to you when you leave your job, for example belongings kept in a locker or tools you provided.

Sometimes an employer might refuse to give your belongings back, for example because they think you owe them money or are keeping their property. They’re not allowed to do this but it can sometimes be hard to get your things back.

Speak to your employer as soon as possible to ask for your belongings back. If you’re not comfortable speaking to your boss, you could try talking to someone in the HR department or get help from organisations like a trade union.

Ask if you can send someone else to pick up your belongings or get them from a colleague if you’re not allowed back into your workplace.

If your employer wants you to pay money or return their property, ask for a breakdown of what they think you owe. Show them any evidence you have that you don’t owe them money or that the property belongs to you.

If negotiating doesn’t work, you’d need to take your employer to court to get your belongings back. Many people think you can call the police to help, but this isn’t true.

Contact your nearest Citizens Advice for help if your employer won’t let you have your possessions back.

If your employer won’t give certificates back

Certificates for things like professional qualifications belong to you, even if your employer paid for them.

If your employer won’t give them back, contact the training provider to ask for copies. There will often be a small charge, but this can be a quicker and cheaper option than taking your employer to court.

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