How to prove you haven’t been paid

If your employer hasn’t paid you, is withholding wages, or making unauthorised deductions, they’re breaking the law.

Find out what evidence you need and whether you should make an unpaid wages claim.

What should I do when I haven’t been paid?

The law is very clear: you’re entitled to be paid for any work you’ve done, and for employers to pay this on time. This includes:
  • Your basic salary or wage
  • Overtime
  • Holiday pay
  • Sick pay
  • Parental leave pay
  • Redundancy pay, notice pay, and pay in lieu of notice
  • Any money owed to you by the employer

It doesn’t include:
  • Statutory sick pay
  • Statutory maternity or paternity pay
  • Expenses

If you’ve been dismissed from your job, your due pay should all be in your final pay packet.

You’ll first need to find out if you really have been paid the correct amount (or paid at all), and why.

With any employment dispute, it’s best to talk to your employer first. Follow this up in writing (keeping a copy for yourself), so you have proof.

Ask them to talk you through your payslip if you need to, and why any deductions have been made. Your employer will be authorised to make certain deductions from your pay. Tax and national insurance contributions, pensions, over-payments, and agreed deductions like unpaid leave.

Banking and accounting errors are common. Your employer will likely be able to quickly resolve these problems.
You should also check that you’re paying the right amount of tax. It can come as a bit of a shock to see your payslip when you’re on a higher tax code than you should be. Your employer’s HR department should be able to help, and you can also talk to HMRC.

If it’s not an error – if your employer is wilfully withholding your pay – immediately file a grievance with HR. This will force the company you work for to investigate.

What proof of unpaid wages should I get?

You should aim to gather as much proof as possible. Make sure you include:
  • Payslips (note: your employer is legally obliged to provide you with a payslip or copy of your payslip)
  • Timesheets
  • Bank statements
  • Your contract
  • Relevant communications with your employer

After filing a complaint, your employer may arrange a meeting. Bring copies of these to any meetings. Hopefully, you won’t need them – your employer should admit a mistake has been made and rectify it.

The benefit of strong evidence is two-fold: you can easily prove that your employer won’t pay or has made unauthorised deductions. And it shows them you’re taking the matter seriously (and may take legal action if necessary), which might nudge them into resolving the matter and finally paying you.

Keep your evidence safe. If you end up having to make an unpaid wages claim, your solicitor and the employment tribunal will want to see your proof.

Should I make an unpaid wages claim?

An unpaid wages claim is a legal route to getting paid what you’re owed.

When your employer refuses to sort out the matter, even after the grievance process, talk to a solicitor. There is now the possibility that you’ll be taking your employer to an employment tribunal, and your solicitor will be able to help you prepare your case.

Before this, though, you or your solicitor need to tell ACAS what you intend to do. This independent body offers impartial advice and dispute resolution, while keeping everyone out of the courtroom unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Once ACAS have been informed, you and your employer will be invited to voluntary mediation sessions known as early conciliation. You’ll both have a chance to discuss the matter with a professional mediator who will attempt to broker a legally binding agreement.

If discussions break down, you’ll be granted the right to take your employer to an employment tribunal. There, a panel of three experts will decide on your case.

You may not even have to attend – even up to the last second, your employer can make a settlement offer. An employment solicitor will advise whether to accept the terms.

Can I make a claim if my employer has gone bust?

When a company goes bust, you’re still legally entitled to what you’re owed, but receiving it can be a little more difficult – after all, the company now has no money to pay anyone anything.

In the run-up, your employer may have made you redundant. During this process, you will be offered redundancy and notice pay. Remember, you must be an employee for at least two years with the company to qualify for redundancy pay.

If your pay is not forthcoming, you need to apply to the government’s Insolvency Service.

Through the service, you can claim:
  • Redundancy pay
  • Holiday pay
  • Wage arrears
  • Notice pay
  • Pay in lieu of notice
  • Tribunal compensation if you’ve already been to an employment tribunal but your employer can’t pay

The amount you’ll get depends on your age, length of service, and what was in your contract.

You could still make an unpaid wages claim and take your employer to an employment tribunal. However, even winning at an employment tribunal might not guarantee you get the money you’re owed. Your solicitor is best placed to offer advice on how (or even if) to proceed with your claim.

When can I make an unpaid wages claim?

You can make a claim for unpaid wages up to three months from the last time your employer made an unauthorised deduction or didn’t pay you at all.

Your claim will cover deductions of non-payments up to a period of two years before the day you make your claim.

If you’ve decided to make a claim against your employer, talk to an employment solicitor as soon as possible. Depending on the complexity of your claim, it can take time to form a case. You can use The Law Superstore’s quick quote form to compare and connect with legal experts who understand how to help you succeed in your unpaid wages claim.

Steve Clark

Steve creates helpful guides for The Law Superstore. He enjoys digging deep into new areas of the law, supporting partners, and translating legalese and jargon into plain English everyone can understand.