What to Do If Your Employer Won't Pay What Is Owed

The chances that an employer won't pay what is owed are relatively low but the risk is always there, so it’s essential to understand your rights and the procedure to follow to rectify the situation.

Very few people work for fun. At the end of the day most of us go to work to get paid, so when an employer won't pay what is owed it can leave us feeling angry, hurt, and confused. In most cases, withholding an employee’s pay is illegal and observed strictly under government legislature. This means there are defined ways of retrieving unpaid sums. Be prepared, some of these procedures can take a long time and can often be quite expensive. In certain cases the cost of recovering unpaid monies exceeds the actual amount itself, so you might need to really consider how worthwhile the fight will be.

Seeking a Resolution from Within

  • Before you seek out assistance it’s always best to clarify the situation. You need to establish whether an employer won't pay what is owed, or if there has simply been some clerical mishap. If you work for a larger company, escalate any concerns you have to your manager, Human Resources department, or payroll provider. If it’s a company of one or two people talk to the boss. 
  • In either case, put your query in writing, a complaint if necessary, and ask for a suitably timed response. All employers are obliged to respond, and in most cases will look to rectify the situation to avoid lengthy disputes. If, after this, you have still not reached a satisfactory solution, it will be necessary for you to seek further assistance from external parties that specialize in employment resolution.

Requesting Assistance from Outside Parties

  • The most cost-effective assistance you can receive when an employer won't pay what is owed is from a trade union. If you’re a member, contact your representative who will be able to initiate and conduct a case against your employer. As you pay contributions to your union this should be conducted free of charge and in most cases will bring about a quick end to the problem. 
  • Non-union members will need to seek alternative legal assistance. Your first stop should be any state or government advice bureaus. These free advice services may be able to assist. Failing this you will need to contact a solicitor. Some law firms provide a free Initial meeting, but be aware that legal charges can escalate quickly. Cases where an employer won't pay what is owed tend to have to go to court, which is an extremely slow and costly process.