My employer hasn’t paid me – what should I do?

The horror of checking your bank account only to find out you haven’t been paid – it can be shocking! Today, we look at some of the next steps you can take.

Bharat Jain • 
My employer hasn't paid me - what should I do?

If you’ve ever gone to check your bank account on the first of the month (or whenever your official pay date is), only to find that your wages are not there… well, you’ll know it can be shocking.  Thankfully, there are several actions you can take, depending on your situation – and we’re going to explore some of these right now.

Financial crisis management

If the failure to be paid has created immediate cashflow issues for you there are steps you may consider from a financial crisis management perspective. For example, if direct debits have bounced, contact your bank first and/or view this page on moneysaving as some banks will try again to collect the payment later in the day, before returning the direct debit to the issuing institution unpaid. This may give you time to top up the account and avoid fees or defaulting on the payment.

Also, some organisations will retry unpaid/returned direct debit requests several days later, before registering a defaulted payment, buying time in which the late salary issue can be rectified. But such policies vary according to the organisation’s e-banking and e-billing protocols.

Getting paid the wages due to you

From a legal perspective, a failure to pay you for work that you have done means the employer is in breach of contract, which is classified as an unauthorised deduction of wages.

There are various remedies to this situation, but, before going legal you should contact your payroll department because there may be an innocent explanation for this which can be easily rectified. This could include things like a routine data submission error, or you joined after the payroll deadline and the employer failed to inform you that this would mean a delay in pay. Frustrating as they are, mistakes and oversights such as these do happen. However, once uncovered the payroll team should jump into action to remedy the situation to your satisfaction. 

However, if your pay situation isn’t resolved to your immediate satisfaction, you may now need to respond in a more formal way, by making a ‘formal grievance’. Obtain a copy of your employee handbook from your HR Manager and look at your grievance procedure. By law, employers must supply employees with a grievance procedure that outlines:

  • Who the employee should contact about the grievance (often an HR Manager)
  • How to contact the person

You should now write to the designated grievance contact, stating the following:

  • You are raising a ‘formal grievance’ in line with the grievance procedure.
  • The exact amount of money due.
  • When you expect this to be paid.

You may want to provide supporting evidence such as:

  • Signed timesheets showing the hours worked.
  • A copy of your employment contract showing your rate of pay and pay data.
  • A copy of the overtime policy and any other relevant compensation policies.

If your employer has not supplied you with a copy of the grievance policy, then you can request a copy of it, reminding them politely of their legal obligation to do so, perhaps with a link to this governmental reference page:

Hopefully, this assertive approach will yield an affirmative response and you should receive your pay or an imminent concrete date for payment.

If you do not receive a response, the wages due to you, or a concrete date for payment within 7 days you may need to progress to an even more formal stage of action. This may involve making a claim to an employment tribunal for unpaid wages, but there is a 90-day time limit for this for submitting the paperwork.

And if your employer ceases trading prior to or during your tribunal claim this can complicate the process of reclaiming unpaid wages. If this is the case you are advised to contact the Redundancy Payment Service at to see if you can claim some or all of the owed wages. If you have reached this unfortunate stage of proceedings, you also should contact the ACAS Helpline as you may need more specialist advice.

Warning signs and pre-emptive actions

Even if your employer does address your payroll issues this time, if payroll delays are becoming a trend, this may be a warning sign about the company’s financial position and that there may be an impending insolvency risk. In which case, we’d recommend talking to your employer about your concerns and explaining how the payroll issues are financially impacting you personally.

Your employer should hopefully be able to provide appropriate reassurance that these ongoing pay issues will be rectified, and this should be backed up by transparent communication and financial evidence.

If your employer fails to ease your concerns, it may be time to find an employer on a more financially sound footing with a risk level that you are comfortable with.