Legal Updates

Employment – Unauthorised Deduction of Pay

In the case of Atchoe v Camden Primary Care Trust [2006], the issue of unauthorised deduction of wages was heard before the Employment Tribunal. The employee worked in maintenance for the employer’s estates and facilities directorate. In addition, the employee was also occasionally employed out of hours when an emergency arose. This was an ‘on-call’ system and was organised on a rota basis. If an employee took part he or she would receive additional payments for being on-call. If an employee was called out in an emergency he or she then received further payment for work carried out.

The employee’s contract stipulated a number of things:

§   He had to show evidence that he held the technical qualifications required to work in the position of maintenance worker

§   He was expected to take part in the on-call system; and

§   The employer retained the right to vary the terms of his employment.

The employer asked the employee to show evidence of his qualifications. It came into question whether the employee was able to provide this evidence. As a result of this, the employer removed the employee from the rota for the on-call system on the grounds of safety. The employee therefore no longer received the extra payment for being on-call.

The employee relied on s13 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 and claimed that the employer had unlawfully deducted from his pay.

The Employment Tribunal held that the employer had been entitled to remove the employee from the rota on the grounds of safety. However, it was not entitled to deduct from his pay. The Tribunal had based its decision on three authorities upon which the parties had not relied nor made submissions. The employer appealed to the Employment Appeals Tribunal (“EAT”).

The employer submitted that the Tribunal had erred in its application of s13(3). Having found that the employer was entitled to remove the employee from the rota, the Tribunal should have found that the employer was entitled to deduct from the employee’s pay. As the employee was removed from the rota, he should not have continued to be paid. In addition, the employer argued that the Tribunal should not have relied on three authorities supporting its judgment upon which the parties had not had any opportunity to make submissions.

The appeal was allowed for the following reasons:

§   The Tribunal should not have relied on any authority which the parties did not have an opportunity to make a submission. There had therefore been a material irregularity in the proceedings as neither the employer nor the employee had even mentioned the three authorities.

§   The Tribunal had erred in its application of s13(3).

§   The Tribunal should have concluded that there had been no unauthorised deduction of pay by the employer. If the employer was legally able to remove the employee from the rota, the employee was no longer entitled to the extra pay.

The decision would therefore reversed.

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© RT COOPERS, 2006. This Briefing Note does not provide a comprehensive or complete statement of the law relating to the issues discussed nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight general issues. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in relation to particular circumstances.




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