An employee failed to attend a work-related course paid for by the employer, so the employer decided to take the fees out of the employee’s wages.  The employee noticed that his wages were lower than normal, and asked for an explanation.  The employer explained that the fees for the course had been deducted.

Is this permissible?

The answer depends on whether the employee had provided his written consent.

That may be the case if the employee had agreed to deductions by signing any of the following documents:

  1. An employment agreement which stated the employer could deduct fees from wages where the employee failed to attend courses;
  2. A letter or form to the same effect;
  3. An agreement or acknowledgment form relating to the training, which stated the employee would repay the employer through deductions from wages.

If nothing like that happens, the employer generally has no right to deduct money from wages.

Even if consent has been given, the employee can revoke that consent in writing at any time.  The employer would then need to stop making deductions as soon as practicable, or within two weeks.

There are some circumstances where the employee’s consent is not necessary, including:

  • Where the employer has made an overpayment of wages (although the employer still must let the employee know before the overpayment is actually deducted);
  • Where a Court directs a deduction be taken; and
  • Where the deduction is required by law (for example, for tax, child support, or for repayment of a student loan).

Where an employer takes too much, the employee can complain to the Labour Inspectorate, or take a case to the Employment Authority.