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I have a full-time remote job, but I haven't been able to work for two weeks due to technical issues with my work equipment. Nothing in my contract says anything about salary if absent due to technical issues and my supervisor is now telling me that it may affect my paycheck, but getting only half a salary is hard to survive from. So do I have the right to receive my whole salary because it's their equipment that is not working and there is nothing I can do about it or can I only get money for the hours I actually worked?

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    "Do I get paid" is more of a legal question However I would suggest you to reframe the problem when talking to your employer: What would have happened if the same issue happened on site?
    – JayZ
    Apr 29, 2022 at 8:36
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    I'm sure a lot depends on whatever employment law applies. But I'd certainly be adamant that you are available for work and that the company's unwillingness or inability to resolve the technical issues is not your fault and that you expect to be paid regardless. In the meantime, however, I'd certainly be asking for work assignments that can be done without their equipment being operational. Even if there are none, you are showing your willingness to work.
    – jwh20
    Apr 29, 2022 at 9:57
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    Some jurisdictions allow employees to be stood down if they can't be usefully employed. If you give some sort of jurisdiction, people can give you more detail. Apr 29, 2022 at 13:12
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    What does your contract state? Did you inform your IT department and your manager immediately once the system became unworkable?
    – Mast
    Apr 30, 2022 at 11:00
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    You really need to tell us where you're based... If you're in the EU... They're pretty much going to have to pay you... If you're in the US, well, may the odds be ever in your favour Apr 30, 2022 at 19:59

5 Answers 5

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It would depend on your actions. Since you can't do the work that the company was intending for you to do, you automatically have a new job, which is doing whatever you can to change the situation.

For example, if your VPN connection breaks down, you can't do your job, and you wait two weeks without telling anyone, that's bad for you. If you call your company's IT department immediately, and they don't fix it within a few hours, so you call them again and call your manager and escalate it, and that drags on for two weeks where you do what you can to get your connection back, that's the company's problem.

I would also expect that you use the time to do things that help you in your job, like reading books about aspects of your job, documenting things, doing less important things that you can do, and so on instead of just doing nothing.

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    And also "ask your supervisor what you should be doing while you are unable to do your regular work". Apr 29, 2022 at 13:08
  • ... within the hours while you wait for IT to fix the issue Apr 30, 2022 at 9:46
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You will probably need to prove that the employer is to blame for the impediment. You may also need to prove that you did everything you can to notify them of the problem, fix the problem yourself and/or cooperate with them in order to fix it. If that's the case, then they can't withhold you your payment

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I don't think that withholding salary for an employee is lawful (disclaimer: I am not a lawyer). Normally employees aren't paid based on their output, but on the time they are available for the company (the time they are in the office, or in your "full remote" case, the time you are available to them in your home office). But to be sure, check your contract. During work time you are paid to do what your supervisor tells you to do. If it's not possible for you to complete your tasks, you communicate that immediately and best in writing. After that it's your supervisors problem, not yours.

Apart from that, if your supervisor thinks you didn't communicate enough, or didn't do what is neccessary to overcome the issues, he/she has legitimate ground for disciplinary action against you. But withholding salary is normally not a tool in that toolbox (but also here, check your contract).

So what does that mean in the real world? If your employer withholds a part of your salary, this is most probably unlawful. But if it's a good idea to sue your employer is a hard decision to make. In my opinion, regardless of the outcome, I would look for another job. I can't imagine that it's fun to work for such a dysfunctional company.

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  • In the US, I (not a lawyer either) believe it's legal for a salaried employee not to be paid for a week if they didn't perform any work during that whole week. I don't know about other countries, but I'd bet there are some (many?) that allow withholding salary under certain circumstances in which the employee is considered not to be working for an extended period. This may be relevant to the question if the company wants to make a case that Anouk (the OP) was not working for those two weeks.
    – David Z
    Apr 29, 2022 at 18:25
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    @DavidZ at least in Germany, that only applies if the lack of work was due to the employee. If an employee offers to work and the company does not let them, the company has to pay the full salary. Otherwise it would be too easy to send workers on unpaid vacation during periods of low business...
    – wimi
    Apr 29, 2022 at 18:34
  • @DavidZ In Australia, that is true if it was impossible for the employee to work, through no fault of the employer (but not necessarily the employees fault). Apr 30, 2022 at 2:58
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IMHO, it depends on your employment type, check your contract

If you are an employee, it should not affect your paycheque, especially when employer is the one responsible for not providing the working environment

But, in case you are freelancer for the employer, it may.

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In some jurisdictions, it can be lawful to stand down workers when it's impossible for them to work.

Example in Australia:

An employer may stand down an employee during a period in which the employee cannot usefully be employed because of a number of circumstances including:

  • industrial action (other than industrial action organised or engaged in by the employer)

  • a breakdown of machinery or equipment, if the employer cannot reasonably be held responsible for the breakdown, or

  • a stoppage of work for any cause for which the employer cannot reasonably be held responsible.

So, in Australia, it would depend on if the reasons for the non-functioning equipment.

Maybe, for example, the equipment is heavily specialised, and on transit to your home, was involved in a car accident and damaged. Due to the nature of the equipment, it's difficult to replace.

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    I don’t think you can stand down the employee after the fact. So you might be able to do it after the first day, but you can’t wait two weeks and stand them down for the previous two weeks.
    – gnasher729
    Apr 30, 2022 at 9:02
  • @gnasher729 No, you're right. I don't exactly know the sequence of events, and what was communicated to the OP when. Apr 30, 2022 at 10:03
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    I'm assuming that "standing down" an employee involves telling them up front that they don't need to work for a specific time and could take up other work (or enjoy their unpaid holidays) in the meantime?
    – nvoigt
    May 1, 2022 at 16:14

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