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Problems getting paid

This advice applies to England

If you think your pay is wrong or you haven’t been paid, the best thing you can do is talk to your employer to find out why.

If you and your employer can’t agree on how much you should have been paid, you can challenge them.

You should act quickly - it’ll be much harder to get your money back after 3 months from the date the problem arose.

Check your payslip

You should start by checking your payslip, if you’ve got one. This will help you see how your pay’s been worked out. Check things like:

  • whether you’ve been paid for the number of hours you’ve actually worked
  • if you’ve been paid at the correct rate
  • if you’ve been paid for overtime, commission or bonus
  • whether you’ve been paid any sick pay, holiday pay or maternity pay that you were expecting
  • if your employer has deducted any money that you weren’t expecting

If you’re an employee or a worker, you have the legal right to a payslip which shows 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 don’t have 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.

You can show your employer this guidance from Acas - it explains why they have to give you a payslip. If they won’t agree, you’ll need to raise a grievance with them.

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.

Common problems

You've paid too much tax

If you’ve just started a new job, you might pay tax through an emergency tax code. This could mean you get less money than you should until HM Revenue and Customs updates its records. Normally this will only be for a month or two at the most. 

If you’ve been in your job for more than 3 months and think your employer has taken too much money for tax, you’ll need to check your tax code and let HMRC know if it’s wrong on GOV.UK. 

Your pay will be adjusted so you pay the right amount of tax over the tax year.

You haven't been paid for all the hours you've worked

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

Next steps

If you haven’t been paid for all the hours you’ve worked, get together evidence of your completed hours. If you haven’t got your own record of your hours, you could use things like:

  • old rotas
  • clocking in records
  • emails from your employer confirming your shifts

This will help you take steps to get what you’re owed.

Your employer has deducted money from your wages

If you’ve noticed a deduction on your payslip that you weren’t expecting, double check it’s not something you’ve forgotten about.

Employers are allowed to take money from your pay for:

  • deductions you’ve agreed in writing, for things like damaged stock, till shortages, the cost of a uniform or cost of a training course - it might be in your contract or you may have signed a separate agreement
  • money you’ve been overpaid in previous weeks or months
  • student loan repayments
  • tax and National Insurance contributions
  • time you didn’t work because you went on strike
  • deductions ordered by a court to pay your debts, such as an attachment of earnings order

If you're an agency worker and the company name on your payslip is different to your employment agency, you might be working for an 'umbrella' or 'payroll' company. The company might make extra deductions from your wages for employer's national insurance contributions and administration or service charges. If the deductions on your payslip aren't clear, ask the umbrella company or agency to explain them - preferably in writing.

You can check if you’ve been paid less than minimum wage at GOV.UK.

Check a deduction for shortages was taken correctly

If you work in a shop, bar or restaurant, you can have money taken from your wages to cover missing money from the till or damaged stock, as long as:

  • there’s a written agreement with your employer saying they can take money
  • you don’t lose any more than 10% of your pay before tax on each payday the deduction is made
  • your employer started taking the money within 12 months of noticing the shortage
  • you’re given written details of the deduction on each pay day your employer takes money

Next steps

Check what your contract or any other written agreement says about your employer taking money from your wages. If you think they’ve taken money wrongly, you should get together any evidence that will support what you’re saying, such as:

  • payslips showing your employer has taken more than 10% of your pay before tax
  • a written agreement between you and your employer about how you’d pay back an overpayment
  • a print-out of your results from the minimum wage checker at GOV.UK

This will help you take steps to get the money you’re owed.

You haven't been paid for time off sick or parental leave

If you think you should have been paid for sick, maternity, paternity, adoption or shared parental leave, the first thing you should do is check whether you were entitled to be paid for it. You might have a legal entitlement to a certain amount of pay, called ‘statutory pay’, or your contract might give you extra rights to pay.

You can check online if you’re legally entitled to:

You should also check your contract to see if you’re entitled to more pay from your employer when you’re off sick or on parental leave.

Next steps

If you think your employer hasn’t paid you statutory pay you’re entitled to, you should contact HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for advice on what to do next. You’ll need to contact HMRC within 6 months of the date you should have started getting statutory pay. 

HMRC employees enquiry line
Telephone: 0300 200 3500
Textphone: 0300 200 3212
Open Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm.

Calls can cost up to 12p a minute from landlines, and between 3p and 45p a minute from mobiles.

For any extra pay your contract says you’re entitled to, get together any evidence that will support what you’re saying, such as:

  • a copy of any relevant company policies, eg the maternity policy
  • your employment contract, eg the part that says what sick pay you get

This will help you take steps to get the money you’re owed.

You haven't been paid holiday pay

If you think you should have been paid for time you spent on holiday, the first thing you should do is check whether you were entitled to be paid for it.

You can check if you’re entitled to holiday pay and find out what steps to take. 

Your employer has gone out of business

Your options depend on why your employer has gone out of business. If they’ve just stopped trading, you can take steps to get the money you’re owed.

If your employer has gone out of business because they’ve got serious financial issues, you’ll normally be contacted by the person in charge of sorting out money the business still owes. They’re called an ‘insolvency practitioner’.

You’ll need to follow steps to claim any money your employer owes you.

You haven't been paid for a while

Your employer might be having temporary money problems, which mean they’re late paying you. If this is the case, they’ll normally tell you and will try to pay you as quickly as they can.

However, if you notice any of the following it could be a sign that your employer might never be able to pay you:

  • you’ve had no explanation for why you haven’t been paid
  • other employees haven’t been paid
  • you’ve heard that suppliers haven’t been paid

If any of these apply to you, it’s a good idea to get advice from your local Citizens Advice on whether it’s better to leave your job.

Even if you leave your job, you can still take steps to get the money your employer owes you.

If you’re not getting anywhere

If you need more help at any stage, you can talk to an adviser.

Step 1: speak to a trade union

If you’re in a trade union, they might be able to negotiate with your employer for you. If you’re not in a union, find out if there’s one at your workplace that you can join. You might find details in your staff handbook, intranet or on notice boards at work.

Step 2: raise a grievance

Check if your employer has a formal grievance procedure you can use. Even if they haven’t, you can still raise a grievance - for example by writing a letter. Explain why you think you haven’t been paid enough and include copies of any evidence.

Step 3: early conciliation

If your grievance doesn’t get the result you want, you can take your employer to a tribunal. You'll have to notify Acas first.

Acas is an organisation that provides independent support to help sort out employment disputes. They'll see if your employer will agree to a process called ‘early conciliation' - a way to resolve disputes without going to a tribunal.

The quickest way to start is to fill in the early conciliation form on the Acas website. Or you can call the Acas early conciliation team on 0300 123 1122.

Step 4: take your employer to a tribunal

Your last resort is to take your employer to a tribunal. Think carefully before you apply to a tribunal - it could be stressful and if you pay for legal advice or representation it could be expensive.

The deadline for applying to the tribunal is 3 months less a day from when you should have been paid the money. You need to notify Acas before the deadline ends and get an early conciliation certificate from them. You’ll need the certificate to apply to the tribunal. 

You can only apply to a tribunal if you're an employee or worker. Check your employment status if either:

  • you're not sure if you're an employee or worker
  • your employer says you're self-employed and you think they're wrong

If you’re self-employed or you’ve missed the tribunal deadline, you can usually claim for unpaid wages at a small claims court instead. You can decide whether to make a small claim.

If you're having money problems you can:

If you need more help, you can talk to an adviser.

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