Salary deduction

  • Pay & Benefits
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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

(Last updated )

What salary deductions can you legally make? Read our expert guide for advice on the holiday, pay, and statutory deductions you can make to your employees' wages.

Employees and workers receive legal protection from an unauthorised salary deduction. But there are certain occasions when you can make allowable deductions. It’s important to follow the right steps, otherwise you could end up breaking the law. In this guide, we take a look at how you can stay compliant while making deductions from wages in the UK.

Payslip deductions

There are three conditions in which you can make a pay deduction. These are:

  1. It’s required by British law—statutory deductions.
  2. The employee/worker has the deduction stated in their contract—you will need to show your employee has seen the contract and agreed to it.
  3. The employee/worker has consented to the deductions—you employee would have to agree to the deduction at the time you want to make it, even if it isn’t in the contract.

But what are statutory deductions? In the UK, these are the likes of income tax, National Insurance contributions, pension contributions, and paying off a student loan.

Legal payroll deductions

There are exemptions to the above rules. One example is if there’s been a wage overpayment. With this one, you’re legally allowed to take the money back without meeting any of the above criteria. To respect your employee, you should discuss with them the overpayment. Then you could reach an amicable agreement about how to have the money returned (often through monthly deductions from future pay slips). Do remember that in some lines of work, such as retail, there are rules in place that stop you from deducting more than 10% from the gross amount of any wage. But the rules are different if it is the last wage to pay when the employee is leaving.

Advance deduction on payslip

Another possibility is a deduction to cover a previous wage advance. This is where an amount gets removed from an employee/worker’s payslip to cover money previously advanced to them. This type of action is commonplace for retail clerks, loan officers, and sales jobs. If they’re on commission and have no established salary, these jobs may include a draw that works in a cycle. With this, an employee/worker has extra pay one month, but it gets deducted in future payslips. This draw could work, for example, with a salesperson if they don’t earn commission. Once they’ve made this money back, they’ll then receive an advance deduction.

Holiday pay deductions from wages

The Deduction from Wages (Limitation) Regulations 2014 policy changed deductions from holiday pay. When making a claim for backdated deductions from wages, there’s now a two-year cap in place. So, yes, that means you only have a two-year limit to make a claim. If you have an employee who has taken too much annual leave, you can deduct the excess holiday pay from their pay (as long as you have a provision in your contract stating so).

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