In Ireland, the making of deductions from wages is strongly regulated. Unless consented to by the employee or laid out in the terms of their contract, an employer may not make deductions from wages.
While the Payment of Wages Act 1991 generally prohibits employers from making deductions from the paycheques of their employees, there are a limited number of circumstances in which it may be permissible to do so. These include:
- Deductions required by law, such as for PRSI or PAYE
- If the deduction has been outlined in the contract of employment, such as for pension contributions
- If the deduction has been made with the written consent of the employee in advance for the purposes of health insurance, gym membership, etc.
In order for such deductions to be considered legally valid, written notice of their existence must be given to the employee prior to any deduction from their wages being made. The amount deducted must also be fair and reasonable.
Deductions for Misconduct
Special provisions also apply in instances where there has been misconduct or poor job performance by the employee.
Although an employer is generally prohibited from deducting wages, they can do so for certain acts or omissions that constitute misconduct. Where an employer decides to make such a deduction, the employee must be notified of it in writing at least one week in advance prior to it happening, as well as the particulars of the deduction. Furthermore, the deduction must not be enforced any later than six months after the act or omission in question.
If an employer is noncompliant with the Payment of Wages Act, then a complaint can be made to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) or dealt with via civil action.
If the employer has been found to contravene the act, they may be liable to a criminal prosecution, and/or a fine of up to €2,500.
Should an employee wish to make a complaint to the WRC, they must do so within six months of the offence having occurred. If exceptional circumstances prevented the employee from making the complaint within this timeframe, this period may be extended up to another six months.
Contacting a solicitor
If you believe that your employer has unlawfully deducted your wages, or if you are unsure of the complaints process/next steps going forward, talk to an experienced and qualified solicitor who will be able to advise you of all options and offer expert guidance.
*In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.*