Being a prolific blogger, it’s often assumed that the things I write about and the stories that I tell are made up, or at least exaggerated to help me make my point.

Well, whilst I do sometimes alter facts to protect the innocent (or the guilty as appropriate!) all my tales are true, which goes to show that I’ve had a much more interesting life than I’d realised until I started writing.

Take, for example, the unexpected bonus of my salary being doubled over night.

One of my very first jobs was in the HR department (then known as employment and personnel) for a city bank.

I was working there at about the time that Santander (Abby National as they were then) were floating, and if you had a bank account with them (which I did) and you had a certain amount of money in the account on a particular date (which I did) then you got some shares in the flotation.  Of course what was remarkable about the story was that I shouldn’t have had enough money in my account at that time (being quite close to the end of the month when I was on a much tighter budget than I am today) and I only managed to qualify because that happened to be the month that the bank I worked for had an accounting glitch and we all received twice our usual salary.  I thought I was seeing double!

Given my role in the HR department, I was one of the team who was inundated with calls from staff wanting to know what to do (did they have to give the money back) not to mention the dramas around identifying whose fault it was and what steps were to be taken and how we were going to rectify the mess.   So I certainly felt that I’d earned my unexpected windfall, but not everyone was as fortunate as I was.

Which of course gives rise to a number of questions, such as can you dismiss the persons responsible for the mistake (possibly) can you claim overtime/compensation for sorting out the mess (probably not) and do you have to give the money back (it depends).

As an employer, you’d probably assume that you have an automatic right to deduct the money from the next month’s salary, but this may not always be the case.  If you’ve paid someone double, and you deduct it all, then next month they will get nothing, and if they’re not expecting that to happen, they could miss rent and other important payments.  This could amount to an unlawful deduction of wages, particularly if it has happened more than once, the employee had queried it and had been told initially that the amount was correct and so had spent it.  In fact, in an extreme case, the employee could argue that it amounted to an increase in their salary which you might then be obliged to honour going forward.  Unlawful deductions of wages can also arise in a number of other situations, such as if someone’s expenses claims are wrong, but were initially paid in full, or if someone leaves your employment having used more holiday entitlement than then had earned.  If you get it wrong, and deduct money when you shouldn’t, you could find yourself in an employment Tribunal which could cost you much more than double what you were trying to recover.

Do you want the easy answer?  Don’t have staff, or don’t overpay them!

Do you want the realistic answer?  Email my colleague and she’ll send you our guide to deductions from wages.  If you still have any questions, you can call me – two for the price of one, and it won’t cost you a penny.

Kleyman & Co Solicitors.  The full service law firm.  Twice as nice!