If you are not happy with what your employer says, then our fixed price advice services may be able to help you take matters further. This could be help with a written complaint letter (known as a grievance) or mediation or taking legal action.
The time limits for using the Employment Tribunal are just under 3 months – so you should always act quickly with disputes relating to employment. 


Summary of the law - Pay and wage disputes

What are your rights?


  • As an employee, you have the right to be paid your full wages as agreed in their contract of employment.
  • You also have the right to be paid at the time given in your employment contract.

Employers cannot deduct or refuse to pay part or all of an employee’s ‘wages’ unless they are authorised to do so or in certain permitted circumstances:

  • the law allows the deductions for days when you were on strike
  • the law expects the employer to make deductions  where there is a court order (an ‘attachment of earnings’ order) or when directed by the Child Support Agency for maintenance payments
  • if your contract of employment allows specified deductions (perhaps to re-claim unauthorised expenses). But to do this the term in the contract must be one that is permitted by the law.
  • if you agreed in writing to the deduction before the event which led to it.

Special rules apply to deductions from / non-payment of wages of employees who work in retail sector with jobs such as selling products, services or financial services.

The area of law is known as “employment law/breach of contract”.  You are also given extra rights under Sections 13-27, Employment Rights Act 1996. 


Steps to take following unlawful deduction of wages


If an employers has failed to pay your wages or has made an unlawful deduction you have the following options;
1: usually your first step will be to talk to your employer or supervisor or HR department and ask why the wages have been deducted / have not been paid. 

They may have a simple explanation and may be able to resolve the matter without the need for further action from you.

2: if you do not get a satisfactory answer then you should put your complaint in writing. This is known as a grievance. A sample letter is provided to help you.

3: if the letter does not resolve the problem you can use the court process – you have 2 options:

  • Bring a claim for an ‘unlawful deduction of wages’ using the Employment Tribunal. This is limited to pay disputes and not other contractual benefits; or
  • Bring a claim for breach of your employment contract using the County Court. This can cover pay and other benefits. For claims under £10,000 the claim will be dealt with using the small claims procedure.


Under both options you can also claim back from your employer any interest or bank charges or similar expenses you have been put to because of not receiving the full pay you were entitled to.


What evidence should you collect together?


1: Contract of employment stating your salary and any clauses setting out where your employer may make deductions from your wages
2: Payslips
3: Bank statements showing any gaps in payment, 
4: bank statement showing any additional bank charges caused by not being paid
5: bank statements showing any loss of interest on savings you have had to use.
6: If it gets to using court or tribunal you should use a copy of your written grievance letter.


What can you claim?


1: The full sum of money owed

2:  Any interest or bank charges or other expenses which you have suffered or lost out on as a result of the deduction.


What is the deadline for starting a claim at tribunal or court?


3 months from the deduction / non-payment less 1 day. So if you were due to be paid on 25th January 2014 the tribunal must receive your claim by 24th April 2014. 
The three months is usually calculated from the date of last event. It is not enough to have written your grievance letter to your employer within the 3 months – you must also have applied to the Employment Tribunal using their official forms.

If you miss the 3 months deadline, you can use the county court process – where the deadline is usually 6 years. The court process (small claims court if the dispute is for £10,000 or less) is the one to use if as well as wages you are entitled to other contractual payments or benefits that have not been paid. See the example claims section for a list of the moist usual examples.


Example claims


Tribunal or County court - The following list contains examples of the most common types of payments that are classed as “wages” and can therefore be claimed in the Employment Tribunal: 

  • Salary, 
  • Commission
  • Bonuses
  • Holiday pay
  • Statutory sick pay
  • Statutory maternity, paternity and adoption pay, 
  • Notice pay - provided the employee is required to work during the notice period or is treated as doing so.

County Court only payments (as well as wages) due from employer not being paid on time or not paid at all.   The following list contains examples of payments that are not classed as “wages” and therefore can only be claimed for breach of contract:

  • Loans and advances of wages, 
  • Pensions, 
  • Allowances or gratuities in connection with retirement, 
  • Expenses, 
  • Redundancy payments, 
  • Benefits in kind (gym membership, private health care, life assurance).



Disclaimer reminder


Please note: To give you general information about your dispute, the information given here is a simplification of a complex area of law and cannot be relied upon. Before taking action please use our Small Claims service to get specialist legal advice on your specific circumstances. See the full terms and conditions of this website


Format - LETTER OF GRIEVANCE Pay or wage dispute



Information to include

Sample letter – Pay or wage dispute


Start of official letter to other side.

[If you know the person’s name – this should be the person who deals with grievances at the company or your manager]: Dear Mr Smith, 

[If you do not know their name]: Dear Sirs,



Any relevant background information:

What was agreed between you?

What happened (in date order)? 

Be specific and refer to any written or verbal agreements.  ​


As you know I work in the fashion department at the Bristol office:

Job title: Manager

Start date in this role: February 2012

Pay: £16,000 , paid at £1,333.33 every month

Additional payments: time and a half for any bank holiday that I am on the rota to work and a Christmas bonus of £350.

Pay day: 25th of month

I have not been paid the wages that I am entitled to. 




Details of any payments due  and any payments made.


25 November 2013: I only received £500 not the £1,333 due. I had 3 days off for ill-health but these should not have affected my pay. I was underpaid by £833.33

24 December 2013: I received no pay. I was also expecting the Christmas bonus payment of £350. I should have received £1,683.33.

Total unpaid £2,516.66



Identify clearly why you are unhappy.

Give any relevant dates

Be clear about why you think the other person is responsible. ​

Complaint / grievance

I have not been paid my salary for the past two months. 

After the first missed payment I spoke to Sue Jones in HR to alert her to the issue and Sue told me that she would get this sorted as soon as possible. This conversation happened on 26th November 2013. 

However, it was not resolved and then I was not paid my Salary for December. 

I raised this again with Sue on 30th December who apologised and promised that I would be paid by the end of the week. 

As the matter has still not been resolved I am now raising a formal grievance. 

As I’m sure you can appreciate, not receiving my salary in November was very inconvenient especially with Christmas approaching. 

I have not been given an explanation as to why I have not been paid nor have any steps been made (as far as I’m aware) to remedy this issue.


Problems caused

Give details of any problems you have suffered as a result.

If relevant refer to photos.

Problems caused

The situation has caused me inconvenience and embarrassment.

I have got into debt and I’ve had to borrow money from my family.

The situation has also caused me financial losses.


Losses and expenses 

If the problems have caused you losses or expenses - give details.

Also provide proof of the damage and cost of repairs or replacement wherever possible

Losses and expenses

  • Unpaid wages of £2,516.33
  • Bank charges for getting overdrawn and unmet payment charges (see bank statement) £120
  • Loss of interest for 2 months on savings account (as had to use my £1000 savings), see statement £30

Total £2,666.66




Be as clear as possible about the remedy you would like. 

  • Say what action you would like them to take (or stop). 
  • Where you are asking for a payment - put a price on the compensation or payment you claim.


In order to resolve this matter I would like my outstanding wages to be paid to me, in full by 31st January 2014 and for this to be confirmed in writing.

I also would like you to ensure the payment due to me on 25 January is also made.



Give your opponent 14 days to reply to the letter – to  either:

  • agree with your complaint and give you the remedy that you seek 


  • arrange to inspect the problem


  • set out their detailed response.



Please do not ignore this letter. I would like us to try to resolve our dispute without the need for an employment tribunal.

Please reply in the next 14 days, so that this dispute can be resolved as set out in this letter. 

If you do not agree that I am due the wages which I believe that I am owed, please could you reply to me in writing within 14 days of this letter explaining why not.



Point out that ignoring your letter will mean you may start legal proceedings for the court to deal with the dispute and that you may refer the judge to your letter.


I am sure it will not prove necessary but if I do not hear from you within 14 days then I reserve the right to start a claim for an Unlawful deduction of wages and breach of contract in an Employment Tribunal. 

I will also ask the Tribunal to claim the cost of the proceedings (and any interest owed to me) from the company should I be successful.



[If you started with their name]:
Yours sincerely, 
Joanna Bloggs

[If you started using Dear Sirs]:
Yours faithfully, 
Joanna Bloggs