HR Tip: Deductions from final wages for company clothes

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These questions are being answered by Learn HR, a market leader in the provision of HR and payroll training and nationally-recognised professional qualifications.

Question: "An employee has resigned rather suddenly and left the premises but he has not returned his company overalls. Can we deduct the cost of the garments from his final wages payment?"

HR Tip: You may do so only if the employee gives or has given you written permission to make the deduction. If you make the deduction without his written authority it becomes an unlawful deduction from wages. A court would then demand that you repay the money, and you would be unable to recover it in any other way.

I suggest that you ask the employee politely to return the overalls or pay for them. If he refuses you would be entitled to take him to court for the money but I think that would be taking a sledgehammer to crack a walnut. In future I suggest that, when issuing overalls, you have the employee sign to the effect that you may deduct the cost, with a reduction for wear, from final wages. That will keep you in the clear.

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