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Employer Withholding Wages

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MTbowels | 14:45 Thu 02nd Jun 2016 | Law
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Can an employer withhold 15% of wages paid to staff on the basis that they are investigating anomalies in timesheets? My daughter works within an office of a care provider and because of anomalies in the timesheets of the carers who go out on home visits, wages have been withheld for all staff working with the company. To be honest, it looks like a cashflow problem with the company as my daughter deals daily with the company accounts. As far as I'm aware there's nothing in the contract of employment allowing the employer to do this. What can she do? Thank you.

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Doesn't sound right or fair based on the limited info we have. Is she employed directly by the care homes or working through an agency?
The rules on withholding pay are stated here:
https://www.gov.uk/understanding-your-pay/deductions-from-your-pay

It looks as if the employer is trying to use the 'earlier overpayment of wages' clause to make the deductions but I doubt that such an argument would stand up in a court of law unless the employer was in a position to prove that all staff (and not just some of them) had been overpaid in the past.

The Acas helpline can provide further advice:
http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=2042
(AB members have reported that it can take along time to get through but that it's worth the wait).
Question Author
Thank you both. The company is involved in home care for the elderly, infirm and people with disabilities. The company employs carers who visit the clients in their homes and the carers have a time sheet upon which they enter the time they enter the clients home and the time they leave. As customary in the industry, they are not paid for the time traveling between clients and have limited fuel reimbursement.

This is the second time in three months that they've not paid the full wages of their employees and there seems to be a cashflow problem concerning the payments being made to the company by the local council Social services Department. However, as I see it, as disruptive as delayed council payments are to the company, surely this doesn't entitle the care company to withhold wages to the employee.
So who is the employer- the council or the care home? I'm not clear what payments the care home are waiting for from the council. If the care home is the employer and pay your wages then it is up to teh care home to pay you on time even if they haven't received money from the council to pay the residents fees.
It may be similar to teaching supply work when the employer is an intermediary with no substantial funds of its own. I know sometimes I had to wait to be paid because no-one signed off the timesheet at the council. But deliberately holding back 15% seems wrong. Is it the council who have aid they will only pay 85% or the company?
Question Author
It's not a care home. It's a company that employs and provides carers to visit people in their own homes. The carers don't go to care homes at all. The carers usually work on a part-time basis but they are in and out of the office frequently throughout the day to pick up the necessities of the job such as incontinence pads and hand in their time sheets etc. Because the company staff are never collectively in the office at the same time, it makes it difficult for them to object en masse to what the company has done. Most communication between the office and the carers is done by text message.
Question Author
The majority of the work the company does is paid for by the council Social Services Department. The company puts the blame for its inability to pay the wages in full down to not having received payment from Social Services.
I wish people wouldnt advise in terms of 'I dont know but looks a bit wonky' ...

agree strongly with BC
and the govt URL that pay deductions can be for A or B or C ..... and nothing else. anything not in the list is an unlawful deduction

someone else's mistake on a time sheet is not a reason as far as I am concerned and so she should allege to her employer that he has unlawfully deducted wages and should make it up in full before the end of the month so she can cover her debts ( any penalty fees incurred will be charged to him )

she should start a grievance or complaint internally with her employer and has to follow it to the end. altho grievances must be dealt with in 14 d - ACAS can tell you the rules - they certainly cant just spike it

and then sue for breach of contract in the civil court - this one I think is the county court and not the employment tribunal

well. you asked for the legal point of view and that is my view

she should be in a union they are used to this sort of jaunt
otherwise CAB or ACAS are helpful

- what about being fired ? well .... the employer sounds as tho he is going under doesnt he ? disgraceful how the young are exploited

useful experience for her and so she should be doing most of the running
this will be useful for other times this happens in her life

// The company puts the blame for its inability to pay the wages in full down to not having received payment from Social Services. //

your daughter should point out that is nothing to do with employees who have their own debts and liabilities

also she should point out - at the age of x-teen and a half or whatever - that is saying the company is trading while it is unable to meet its liabilities and this is an admission of insolvency and that it is a crime to trade whilst insolvent

shog them - there you are - you dont often read THAT in a legal column
Social services are awful for delaying payments.
Join a union, and/or see the Citizens advice bureau.
Question Author
I'm very grateful for your comments and helpful advice. As I said, my daughter has access to the accounts and it seems that the company are in debt to the bank for some £50k. Having spoken to her later this afternoon, the manager told her after her protests, that they can only pay wages after they get permission from the bank.

It's a very odd place to work as the business is family run. The two owners appear to be common-law husband and wife who have a daughter and son running the company on a day to day basis on they're behalf. There's a lot of squabbling going on when it comes to making decisions as a result along with backstabbing between staff. There are also intimate relationships going on between senior staff, most of them married.

I've had a look at the information available on the owners in their company director capacities and it seems they've owned at least three companies in the past that have become insolvent. All the businesses were doing precisely the same type of thing as the present company. Clearly, they're not averse to throwing the towel in when the financial pressure is too great and starting again.

My daughter was placed with this outfit by a training agency working on behalf of the Job Centre. She worked there for three months for free as she was still receiving Job Seekers Allowance. When they saw her potential, the company offered her a full time job. Being an honest person, she notified the local council that she was working as she lives in local authority housing and has paid one months rent in full. Because of this debacle, she's been late paying this months rent and has received a Notice Of Seeking Possession of the property from the local council.

I can't answer her when she asks me "What's the point in working?"
if you can afford it - sub her the rent
there is no cause of action if she is arrears free

( having been in arrears sol llong as you are up to date on the day of the court hearing, then possession will NOT be given )

well you asked for legal advice
she also very clearly to me needs to change her job ....
Local authority housing will listen if there is a problem paying but even so they are the same as any LL. They can't just turf her out for one missed rent payment.
>I wish people wouldnt advise in terms of 'I dont know but looks a bit wonky' ...
Er, thanks, PP, that'll must be me then as no-one else apart from BC had answered

I agree with everything PP said but was just trying to make sure we knew exactly who the employer was (because it can be less straightforward if agencies and umbrella cos are involved).

Clearly in a normal employer/employee relationship an employee should be paid for work done irrespective of whether the employer has been paid or not . If the employer cannot guarantee to pay people it doesn't sound like a viable business model.

I am still not totally clear of the reason for the underpayment. In the OP it said the money being withheld was "15% of wages paid to staff on the basis that they are investigating anomalies in timesheets" but later it was said "The company puts the blame for its inability to pay the wages in full down to not having received payment from Social Services. "

Anyway, I think the daughter needs to seek other work quickly as this doesn't seem to be a viable business

Any deductions from wages have to have the written agreement of the employees. Otherwise they can make a joint claim the County Court under The Wages Act, ie illegal deduction from wages. Do it [email protected]

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