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Employer withholding wages, claiming hours were "stolen", no written contract


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Posting on behalf of a friend, who is employed by a cleaning company. The facts:

 

- She's been working for the company for 5+ years as a cleaner for a certain client for GBP 6.50/hr for 2 hrs/day (10hrs/week) and her husband was also employed there for the same wage for 3 hrs/day (15 hrs/week).

- There is no written contract and she and her husband have never received anything from the employer except salary payments into their accounts.

- Ever since she's been working there she was told by her supervisor that as long as the offices are cleaned properly it doesn't matter how many hours she works. As a result, she's been going for 3-4 hours/day to do both hers and her husband's work and was always paid for 5 hours/day. No complaints regarding her work have been made.

- Her husband was sacked in Feb 2016 because he never showed up at work (even though the verbal arrangement has always been that she does the work of 2 people - apparently this was the norm at the company). This was after a management change, which also caused her old supervisor to be sacked.

- Now she's received a letter from her employer (see below), which basically states that she's inflated the hours she was supposed to work and she owes the client of the employer 736 hours for 2015 (only) or GBP 4,784 and they are going to deduct it from her salary (which they've already started to do). It would become due if she decides to leave. They also include her husband's hours into this amount (not sure how they calculated 736 hours).

 

I'm pretty sure most of the assertions in the letter are questionable, to say the least. She should have received a written contract and they can't just withhold money from her salary. They mention a meeting between her and the client last August, which she does not recall. They claim that the security guard has been tallying her hours in addition to her punching in/out and that's how they claim they've calculated 736 hours, which is not really believable.

 

It's also clear that the company is trying to get rid of her (as they've already sacked her husband and most of her old colleagues), so she's going to look for another job. However, she wouldn't want to get a debt collections agency on her back and she would like the withheld money returned.

 

So my question is what she should do at this point. :|

 

LETTER - date 21 March 2016 [suspiciously close to the official minimum wage hike, too...]

Dear ****

 

Our customer has highlighted deficiencies in the hours that have been worked during 2015.

1. It would appear that on the majority of working days, only one person attended site when there should have been two, namely you and your husband.

2. Our customer has analysed the signing in times that you entered in the log book on their floor against the hours recorded by the security guard downstairs when you arrived and left the building each day.

 

It would appear that you have been entering earlier arrival times and later departure times on the customer book their floor, compared with these recorded by the security guard.

 

Consequently our customer has requested a refund of 736 hours' work that has not been carried out during 2015.

 

You were aware that two people should be on site for 2.5 hours a day. From the evidence put to us, your husband very rarely attended site and you knew that.

 

Further, you have been inflating the hours you have been working on site.

 

You had a meeting directly with our customer in August where the deficiencies in the cleaning provision were pointed out and following this, two staff did start working again but this lasted just thirteen days.

 

You and your husband have stolen 736 hours during 2015 from our customer. Based on an hourly rate of GBP 6.50, that is GBP 4,784.

 

Accordingly this amount is to be repaid.

 

We will arrange to commence recovery of this over payment from you at the rate of GBP 30.00 per week until the over payment is cleared.

 

Should you leave our employment, the full amount will become due and we will expect payment immediately.

 

Should you wish to discuss this matter further, kindly contact me immediately.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

***

Operations Director

Edited by Bumblebee3000
Letter from employer added
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they cannot collect money owed by her hubby even if they wanted to so if they try she should let them know she is about to issue a county court claim for the recovery of any amount already retained from her pay. They will lose so will probably put the brakes on there and then.

If I were her I would leave and then let them sue her and counterclaim for any retained/unpaid wages. The issue of the company she worked for wanting their money back is a contractual matter between her employer and them, nothing to do with her, they can only sack her for dereliction of duty, not demand she pays them because she did what she was told to do by her supervisor.

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Thanks, ericsbrother - they have already withheld GBP 60 in the last 2 weeks' pay and will presumably continue to do so. Would you suggest that she actually submit a county court claim (after informing them she'll do so) if the employer doesn't respond or give her back the withheld wages?

 

Also, would it be best for her leave before she receives a response to the above (that is, ASAP) or should she wait for a response? There's the danger of them withholding her last 2 weeks' wages if she does not give a notice (not sure what that is but she mentioned a week)...

 

Thanks very much!

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I don't think she should leave, why being unemployed if you don't have to be? They most likely would give her the money though as they have no right under the minimum wage act.

 

Ask her to stay and if the company decides to sack her then they have to go through a long and lengthy process or they face having a claim in the employment tribunal.

 

She has 5+years so a lot is in her favour

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Also to scare them I would suggest she ask for the minute of the meeting or a witness statement (neither is possible) but it would get them to sit up and stop throwing accusations here and there.

 

She should also ask for her written contract and a good reason why it was never given to her before now.

 

They most likely wouldn't answer but she will have her job for a bit longer until she gets another one.

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Can't deduct anything at all unless it's part of her written contract. Sounds like a sham of a company

Any advice i give is my own and is based solely on personal experience. If in any doubt about a situation , please contact a certified legal representative or debt counsellor..

 

 

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Guest topcat14

So many issues here,

 

Is the lady receiving the Minimum Wage ? which became £6.70 per hour from October 2015.

 

In the absence of T&C's of Employment the "Usual Custom and Practice" rule can be applied regarding the hours and other terms which become "implied" by virtue of the fact that the employment was continuing in the way that it was.

 

Did the Husband and now only the wife receive payslips ? P60's ?

 

Was the husband disciplined in the correct way before being dismissed ie via the procedures in the Employee Handbook - important as this is time limited !

 

That is all for the moment ..

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Looking at the figures alone, it looks dodgy.

 

736hours / 52 weeks in a year = 14.15 hours per week they are claiming she didn't work, but claimed credit for.

 

You say she claimed 3 or 4 hours a day for (presumably) 5 days a week, that's 15 - 20 hours a week.

 

Surely it is provable for you in some way if she worked 20 hours a week for a whole year and they say she only worked 6!

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Thanks everyone!

 

donarebun - I'll tell her to ask for a written contract (suspect there isn't one). It's also likely they're in breach of the minimum wage act - apparently they hadn't been paying her the minimum wage as it rose (to gbp 6.50 and then 6.70) until her husband called them to ask - and they don't seem to have repaid the amount owed from the date the wage rose, only from when they got the call or thereabouts.

 

renegadeimp - yes, it certainly does look like a sham company. They're employing a lot of immigrants and they're using their lack of English and knowledge of the law against them. From what I heard from my friend I'm almost 100% sure that they've breached the minimum wage laws (and others) many, many times. Isn't there somewhere else she could report them to? HMRC?

 

topcat14 - please see above re: the minimum wage. She doesn't think (will check) they're paying her the gbp 7.20/hr, which started on 1 April.

Good news about the contract then - I thought the arrangements with the supervisor about working fewer hours than initially agreed to were questionable but if they continued for years and no one from the company (or their client) complained, then I guess that's acceptable. BTW, what happens if they give her a written copy of her contract (doubtful) and the terms there are different to what she agreed to initially? Does she have to sign? She hasn't signed any contracts apparently (and no written copies ever received).

She thinks she has P60s and payslips but she'll check.

Regarding "disciplining" - apparently she was issued some kind of a discipline letter a few months ago (she will look for it), which she was asked to sign (and she did). Not sure if her husband received or signed any such thing before he was sacked though. They seem to be under the impression that she represents both herself and her husband somehow - ?

 

SoggyMoggy - indeed, I can't make heads or tails out of their calculations. I think they just pulled the numbers out of nowhere.

 

king12345 - I was appalled myself. They've really pulled out all the stops, haven't they? I'm sure these are the kinds of letters they used to sack most of my friend's old colleagues who were probably intimidated by this kind of language enough that they left on their own.

 

Thanks again, I'll help her draft a letter tonight so she can hand it in later this week.

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Any advice i give is my own and is based solely on personal experience. If in any doubt about a situation , please contact a certified legal representative or debt counsellor..

 

 

If my advice helps you, click the star icon at the bottom of my post and feel free to say thanks

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You mentioned illegal immigrants.

If your friends is one of them I suggest she keeps her head down and move home when she's sacked or leaves the job.

 

Immigrants are mentioned but no mention of them being "illegal"

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Immigrants are mentioned but no mention of them being "illegal"

 

Pardon me, I just went with the flow as at my workplace all the cleaners are supposed to be vetted but most of them are not supposed to be in uk

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Pardon me, I just went with the flow as at my workplace all the cleaners are supposed to be vetted but most of them are not supposed to be in uk

 

If they haven't been vetted how do you know they are not supposed to be in the UK?

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If they haven't been vetted how do you know they are not supposed to be in the UK?

 

Because they chit chat with us and some confess of having entered illegally or overstayed their visa.

Maybe they just like to brag about something not true.

Anyway, that's not the op's case, so no worries on that front.

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I think you have to be a little bit careful here. Submitting a claim for 5 hours work when you have only been on the premises for 3-4 hours could be seen as fraud. The employer may well be able to bring a county court claim for recovery of the money against your friend for fraud if it has a proper paper trail in place. If your friend decides to bring a court claim for the money that has been withheld that could encourage the employer to counterclaim for the £4,784.

 

If she was told to submit a claim for 5 hours by her supervisor, and this was the normal and accepted practice in the company, then that may be an excuse.

 

I would search for another job ASAP. I would also ask the employer what evidence they have. 736 hours sounds like an awful lot of hours in the course of 1 year. That is more than 2 hours a day for every day of the week. If they can't produce a proper paper trail that will give your friend more confidence.

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