Can Employers Dock Your Pay For Working From Home?

A number of US companies have made pay adjustments. Here are your rights in the UK.

Employees who decide to continue working from home could see a deduction in their wages, even though the level of work they produce remains the same.

That’s according to rumours swirling, after a number of US corporations have introduced post-pandemic pay policies – and a cabinet minster suggested the same should happen in the UK.

Facebook and Twitter have already told US employees their salaries will be adjusted if they choose to work remotely and live in a lower cost area. Now, it’s been reported that Google has launched an internal pay calculator, allowing workers to see pay adjustments based on location.

Google’s internal calculator, seen by Reuters, is supposedly designed to enable employees to see the effects of a house move, but concerns have been raised that it’ll be used to alter the pay of existing, long-distance commuters.

The UK government has now dropped the pandemic demand that individuals must work from home where possible. Instead, it now recommends staff to safely return to the workplace.

So, could UK remote workers have pay docked, too?

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Earlier this week, an unnamed cabinet minster suggested that civil servants who refuse to return to the office, after working from home throughout the pandemic, should have their pay penalised.

“If people aren’t going into work, they don’t deserve the terms and conditions they get if they are going into work,” the senior minister told the Daily Mail.

Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA civil service union, described the comments as “insulting”.

“What should matter to ministers is whether public services are being delivered effectively, not where individual civil servants are sitting on a particular day,” he told PA.

What does this mean for UK employee rights?

Doreen Reeves, a senior employment lawyer at Slater and Gordon, warns employers they could face legal challenges when making drastic changes to staff salaries – which is ultimately good news for employees.

“An employer should be careful making detrimental changes to an employee’s salary which would amount to a change to terms and conditions of employment,” she tells HuffPost UK. “If the change is by mutual consent, it is not likely to cause legal or practical problems as an employee may be willing to consent to a change in salary in exchange for home-working.

“However, if the employer unilaterally imposes a change to the agreed rate of salary or other financial benefits, it will amount to a breach of contract.”

If your employer docks your wages without your agreement, you may have a claim for “unlawful deductions from wages”. If you resign over this, you could also bring a claim for constructive dismissal. “However this claim is only available for employees with two years’ service,” Reeves says.

“Salaries are not means tested but are based on skill, experience and qualifications,” she adds. “If an employee is required to take a pay cut as a condition of home-working or flexible working arrangements, an employer should consider the discrimination risks as employees working from home should not be treated less favourably than a comparable employee.”

A Google spokesperson claimed the company would not deduct money from an employee’s salary based on them deciding to work remotely full time – if this is in the city where the office is located. Workers based in the New York City office will be paid exactly the same as those working remotely from another location in New York. However, Google did not address the concerns for commuters in areas like Stamford, Connecticut, outside of New York City.