Get your hardwork’s worth: Never let your employer have your service for free

businessBeing hired by someone who refuses to pay you after you’ve done your job can be extremely frustrating and stressful. Employers who fail to pay their employees and contractors take advantage of their power. This can be a difficult situation for someone who’s spent a great deal of time carrying out a task only to be denied their rightful dues. This situation is unfortunately very common. It is so common that the construction industry decided to establish the Builders Lien Act which seeks to protect contractors and subcontractors from nonpayment. Builders lien lawyers help individuals involved in payment disputes with their employers get what is due to them. This Act may only cater for people in the construction industry but other workers should not despair as they too have rights. Here are a few tips on what to do when your employer fails to pay you.

Employee or Contractor

A payment dispute is handled differently depending on whether you are an employee or a contract worker. Employees work under the direction of their employers and are paid on a salaried basis. Contractors provide a service to another individual and are paid by job or project. Employees are under the control of their employers but contractors work independently. For a contractor, a payment dispute often involves an employer failing to pay the stipulated amount agreed upon. For an employee, on the other hand, there are many ways in which an employer can default on their payments. This includes not paying wages, paying wages that are below the minimum wage, failing to pay for overtime, making unlawful deductions, paying for fewer hours than worked, failing to pay a promised bonus, paying with a bounced check, and withholding commissions earned.

Possible Reasons for Nonpayment

Employers may fail to pay their employees or contractors for two main reasons. The first is if they deliberately choose to not pay. This can be done as an attempt to save money. Employers often fail to pay employees for sick days and overtime and later claim to have forgotten. Some employers break the law and disregard minimum wage as a way to cut costs. Other employers raise concerns about the service or product they have received, which is especially common in the case of contract workers. Employers do have the right to question the quality of a project, but malicious ones will claim that the work was done incorrectly and instead of giving the contractor an opportunity to resolve the problem they will dismiss them without pay.

The second reason employers may fail to pay their employees, or contractors are that they simply cannot. Businesses fail, and the economy can be brutal. It is common for employers to go through momentary cash flow problems or even experience a more serious and ongoing problem like bankruptcy. When an employer has money problems employees and contractors are usually the last priority when compared to other creditors. Once an employer file for bankruptcy, it is expected that employees will be paid last, if at all.

Speak To Your Employer

The first thing you should do when you realize that you have not been accurately paid or paid at all for your work is to notify your employer. If your employer provides a reasonable explanation for the issue such as an accounting error, banking mistake, or a temporary cash flow shortage then it is best to wait for the problem to be rectified and hopefully receive your dues. However, if you speak to your employer and they are unwilling to explain why you have not received your wages or outrightly declare that they will not pay you, you may be a victim of wage theft. The good news is it is illegal for an employer to intentionally withhold payment. As an employee or contractor, you have rights and the law recognizes this.

Keep Records

As soon as you realize that you will not be paid for your work or that the payment you have received is incorrect it is important to keep records. Track all the hours you have worked and the services you have provided over the relevant pay period. Keep all other evidence involved in the dispute such as a bounced check, bank notifications or contract detailing your payment agreement. It is advisable to keep a record of any written communication on the matter between you and your employer so as to prove that you have made the effort to seek out your wages. Also, record any additional expenses that may arise as a result of not receiving your wages, such as bank charges or rental fines.

File a Claim

Once you have all your documents in order and are certain that the matter cannot be resolved amicably, it is best to file a claim against your employer for breach of contract. The type of case you have will depend on the type of payment dispute at hand and whether your employer is heading towards insolvency. A great place to start at is the employment tribunal which exists to help settle issues between employers and employees. Take your claim to the tribunal as soon as you can as the process of recovering unpaid wages can be a long and tedious one. If you file for ‘unlawful deductions from wages, ’the tribunal will generally handle the case much faster and you can continue to work as they do. If your employer is bankrupt then, your unpaid wages will eventually be paid to you as a creditor either by your employer or by the National Insurance Fund (NIF).

It is very difficult to work and not receive payment for your efforts. If you sense that your employer may be unable to pay you as a result of money problems, monitor the situation carefully and decide if it’s best to leave. To avoid being a victim of theft by your employer ensure you keep a close eye on your wages and what is being deducted from them. Ensure that your paycheck corresponds with the number of hours you have worked. Be aware of your rights as an employee or contractor. If your employer regularly defaults on payment or completely refuses to pay you, it is better to resign and seek legal redress. Know where you stand and let the law handle the issue.

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