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What’s the answer? Docking pay/paying late

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Michelle M gets legal guidance this week from Helen Badger, employment law expert at Browne Jacobson and Martin Brewer, a Partner with the employment team of Mills & Reeve on the law regarding pay.

The question:
“Can an employer dock an employees pay by £5 for turning in their timesheet late?

“Also, can the employee be paid a week late for turning in a timesheet 30 minutes late?

“I worked in HR in California where both of these acts would be illegal. However, I am not educated in UK employment laws.”

Michelle M

The answers:
Helen Badger, employment law expert, Browne Jacobson

The Employment Rights Act 1996 provides that it is unlawful to make deductions from an employee's salary unless:

  • the deduction is required by a statutory provision, or
  • it is required by a provision of the worker's contract, or
  • the worker has signified his consent to the deduction in writing.

The relevant provision of the contract or the written consent needs to be in place before the deduction is made.

In light of this, if you want to have the right to dock an employees' pay for turning their timesheet in late, there would need to be a provision in the employee's contract confirming that you will do this. I assume there is not such a provision at present and so contracts will need to be varied. A unilateral variation of contract would constitute a breach of that contract. A period of consultation, in which you seek to obtain the employees' consent to the variation, will need to take place before such a clause is invoked.

In relation to the proposed late payment, this does seem quite stringent and a little unreasonable. It would not do a great deal for employee relations. However, if you did want this right, there would need to be an appropriate clause in the contract, providing that payment will be delayed by one week in the event that timesheets are not submitted by a certain time.

Helen can be contacted at: [email protected]

More insight on this issue.

One Response

  1. Fines for Late timesheets and late payment
    I have two comments about this but firstly I completely agree with the legal position and we need to have no doubts that any form of penalty for this is unlikely to be enforceable. My first issue is about practicalites because if an employer holds up an entire payroll waiting for a single late time sheet they run the risk of not paying anyone and that merely exacerbates the problem so I do not know of any employer who will shy away from paying someone on the first available payroll following receipt of the timesheet. If that means a delay of one week before payment then surely the blame lies with the employee for failing to adhere to the timetable.
    Secondly, is there not a question here about why the employer still has timesheets? If there was another, more modern way of moving this information from employee to payroll the problem would not exist.

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