Are employers obliged to pay employees for periods of absence that are unauthorised?

There is no obligation on employers to pay employees their normal pay for periods of unauthorised absence. An employer that fails to pay an employee in these circumstances would not normally be in breach of the employee's contract of employment. Non-payment would also not amount to an unlawful deduction from wages because payment would not be "properly payable" (under s.13(3) of the Employment Rights Act 1996) in the first place. However, to help reduce the likelihood of a dispute about non-payment, employers can include a clause in the contract making clear that employees will not be paid for periods of unauthorised absence (see Policies and documents > Contract clause on deductions from wages for unauthorised absence).

Before making a deduction, the employer should investigate the reason for the employee's absence. Deductions from pay should be made only where it is clear that the employee does not have an acceptable reason for the absence. Employers should ensure that employees are aware of the notification procedure to follow if they are unable to attend work, for example if there is disruption to the transport system or if a dependant has been involved in an accident.