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I work as an online developer for a UK distribution company, and am paid a salary monthly.

A few weeks ago I noticed that I was deducted 2.5 hours of pay after being late in to work due to a fatal accident on the main road - all roads in the area were closed and approx. 50 people were late for work, many of whom arrived later than I did. After a lengthy email exchange with the HR Manager (during the entirety of which I was both polite and formal, and copied in my line manager and - toward the end - the Managing Director [MD] as they are my line manager's boss) it unfolded that out of everyone, I was the only person who had their pay docked. After more digging it also became apparent the 2.5 hours was not an isolated incident.

As you can probably imagine, this infuriated me, but I stayed professional and asked for an explanation. My boss took up the case and ensured that I was reimbursed the 2.5 hours as he has proof that the 'facts' being quoted by the HR manager about nobody else being late were fabricated, and the MD has said I will receive a formal apology from the HR manager although I'm not too bothered about that (and I've received nothing yet). I never received an explanation either.

I've noticed that I am still having my pay deducted if I arrive late to work, which is fair enough (I accept that if I'm late then it's my own fault usually) and if I'm even a minute late my pay is deducted by 15 minutes, which is standard where I work. HOWEVER I have spoken to my colleagues, without being too nosey or crossing any lines and only using volunteered information, and it seems that I am the only person having pay deductions for lateness even compared to many much worse offenders.

Don't get me wrong, if it's company policy for lateness to be deducted then fair enough, but it needs to be a global policy that applies to everyone - not just me! The fact that it feels like I am being singled out really makes me feel upset, especially considering I've been working with my current employer for 12 years now.

I have no idea why the HR manager is only taking pay from me and nobody else. I do know that the pay deductions are done manually by looking through the clocking in history (we have retinal scanners, all staff scan in and out) and manually calculating it - there is no automatic system for pay deduction. Therefore I know she is looking through my clocking in times and not anyone else's (or if she is then she isn't making deductions). I have made triple sure that my facts are correct and that nobody else is being docked, I have made no assumptions.

What can I do? I'm already looking for another job, as being treated like this after 12 years has really taken away any loyalty I had to the company.

I have already raised with the MD that there is no official company policy for pay deductions and the fact that it is down to the sole discretion of the HR Manager with no validation or input from anyone else whatsoever is completely unprofessional and unfair.

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    So the obvious question is - why now? – Jane S Nov 12 '15 at 0:42
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    IANAL but to the best of my knowledge if everything you have said is factual and accurate then in in the UK you have clear grounds for a Constructive Dismissal case. Speak to an Employment Lawyer ASAP, it doesn't cost much, if anything, to get an initial viewpoint on your position. – Marv Mills Nov 12 '15 at 9:07
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    " if I'm late then it's my own fault usually" - how often are you (and everyone else) late? I'm assuming from pay deductions it's not a flexible working environment (where you'd stay later to make up any time), so is this a regular thing (for example the industrial park I'm working at just now has one road in/out, so if the traffic is bad, everyone is affected) ? – The Wandering Dev Manager Nov 12 '15 at 10:26
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    Well if you don't have flexibility (I've worked for companies like this) then you just need to be on time, even if it means leaving hours before your due to start. I've noticed though that places that do that end up getting affected the other way as well, no one stays late, and 2 mins past quitting time the office is like a wasteland. – The Wandering Dev Manager Nov 12 '15 at 11:37
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    @TheWanderingDevManager +1 for that, but it must also be applied uniformly and it isn't in this instance, which means the OP is potentially being victimised for some reason. – Marv Mills Nov 12 '15 at 11:38
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At this point there's really only 3 paths you can take:

1. Confrontation

You document the pay cuts. You've said it's not company policy to dock pay, therefore you can demand that the money be reimbursed, or a clear, official, WRITTEN policy be shown to you.

In some countries this sort of thing can be grounds for legal action (because it's not stated in your contract that you can be docked pay).

You can directly accuse the HR manager of discrimination, and if your own management takes no steps to investigate you can progressively contact the agencies identified in this UK government page:

If you haven’t been paid in full

Speak to your employer first to try to sort out the problem informally.

If this doesn’t work, talk to Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service), Citizens Advice or your trade union representative.

You have the right to go to an Employment Tribunal to get your money.

Even if you "win" however, I don't think anyone will appreciate you making a stink.

2. Cold War

You document the pay cuts and go to your managers. They had your back before, and they might agree with you that you are being targeted. If presented with solid proof, they might be able to take this higher up the food chain and confront the HR manager on your behalf.

Unfortunately there is no way you can ensure that no political fallout will reach you. I'm sure that the HR manager will have some other managers in HER corner, and it might not be pretty.

3. Quit

I think it's a damned good thing that you're looking for a new job. It's clear that this woman is trying to drive you out, and there's no good way to deal with her without risking your own job.

Rather than deal with the head-aches of political BS, or worse, legal action, you pack your bags and move on to greener pastures. The downside in this scenario is that if you truly love your job/company it is absolutely terrible to feel like you're letting yourself be "driven out" without a fight.

Conclusion

How much do you like that company? How far are you willing to go in order to prove that she is targeting you and demand action? Any move against her will require well documented proof. Keep in mind that a lot of times the story of how you made waves at the one company can "circulate" to other companies you may be interested in working for.

Good Luck!


There is one more thing you could try: Reconciliation

You could potentially speak to the HR manager and sincerely ask her if there's some reason why she is targeting you.

To be perfectly honest with you, I think that's a TERRIBLE idea. I am simply mentioning it for the sake of not ignoring any scenarios.

In my experience anyone who acts like that will not be emotionally mature or professional enough to approach the conversation as an adult - especially since admitting discrimination would land her in hot water.

More likely she would make a scene and turn it all against you, saying that you are accusing her of discrimination, that you are being aggressive/confrontational (whether you are or not), etc. Welcome to office politics, with the added wrench of gender dynamics thrown in.

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    Thank you for such a thoughtful answer - a lot to think about! – Lyall Nov 12 '15 at 0:39
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    Excellent advice. In an ideal world you'd start with trying to talk out the problem but as you say there are good indications that these action are specifically targeted at the OP. Any HR manager doing crazy things like that cannot be relied upon to react reasonably. – Lilienthal Nov 12 '15 at 10:31
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    I would only speak directly to the HR manager if you are accompanied by your manager or the MD. – mkennedy Nov 12 '15 at 18:26
  • User AakashM suggested an edit to your post which included potentially relevant links but I voted to reject is as being too substantial of an edit. I think you should be able to see his edit and make the changes yourself or approve the edit to overrule my rejection if you agree that it's useful. – Lilienthal Nov 13 '15 at 11:31
  • Also, make sure you sit down at your desk precisely on time (or clock in) and then clock out exactly on time. Walk out of meetings or conversations if you have to. Indicate, it's 5:00 and that's quitting time. Don't answer your personal phone from work after hours and don't work any extra shifts. When you do leave indicate that the #1 reason was the unfair treatment from HR. Tell your boss this and make sure it's recorded in your exit file. – Bill Leeper Nov 13 '15 at 19:17
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If you're singled out for unfair treatment, then it is definitely grounds for a "constructive dismissal" case (where, rather than sack you, they want to make life difficult enough for you that you voluntarily quit).

In the UK, go speak to a solicitor specialising in commercial and employment law and get proper advice on how to proceed with this.

In the meantime, document everything concerning this. Proof is everything here, print and save your emails and if you have discussions with management about it, ensure you have someone else there to just observe, take notes and otherwise act as a witness. If you do this, they will get the message that you're taking it further and may take steps to ensure an outcome - but that outcome may not be to defend you, they will most likely 'close ranks' against you. In this case, I'd go for it though - my opinion is that I wouldn't want to continue working there anyway.

I would think there's something strange going on if HR is doing this without direction from the MD, but you never know that the MD is in on this activity but keeping himself safe. Either way, it sounds very peculiar situation and if it were me, I'd be looking to move regardless (clocking in, in a professional development environment is not something I've ever had to do - only when I worked in a supermarket! Getting pay docked for being late to work in an office environment is again unheard of, you just work 15 mins at the end of the day, assuming you don't already put in an hour or two extra anyway!).

  • Well, the "clocking in" thing depends on context. In Germany for example it's quite common even for developers - even my boss clocks in. However, it is usually combined with flextime, where you must only be present for some core period. – sleske Nov 13 '15 at 10:24
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Nit picking over details like this, especially if it is only done for you, likely indicates that someone is unhappy with your performance and is trying to build a case to have you dismissed or otherwise encourage you to resign. Just because your line manager or the MD "helped" you when you provided incontrovertible evidence that you were unfairly singled out does not mean that they are on your side. Likely one of them is the driving force behind your arrival times being closely monitored and your pay being docked. It would be rare for HR to act like that on their own initiative.

As docking your pay is likely a symptom of the way they are responding to something else that the MD and/or your line manager see as a deeper problem, you need to try to understand what that deeper problem is. It would also be in your favor to ensure you are never late as that will eliminate this avenue of attack for them.

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I don't exactly know what you need to do, but as a software developer/contractor, I make sure to communicate to my managers that whatever "back and forth" may happen on my timesheet, It is a GIVEN that the company receives full benefit of my time...that in the balance, I ensure that the company receives full measure: if i'm 5 minutes late, I stay over 15 minutes...etc.

Along with this, I say that if the COMPANY wants to be nit-picky about timeclocking in, I can certainly make sure that I am nit-picky about exactly how many minutes I work on the back end too!

Everyone seems to understand this, and it resonates with them.

The message is: "I'm always making sure YOU are getting full value, and then some. If you want to be pissy about it, I'll make sure you ONLY get exactly what is required."

  • Thanks for the answer :) I didn't mention in the question, but I regularly stay late as do many other employees, but it counts for nothing. If you are late it counts against you (even if not docked pay, it counts in lateness reports) regardless of how late you stay. For example, if I arrive at 8.35am it counts as arriving at 8.45am (15mins late) and if I stay until 9pm (3.5 hours overtime) it counts as being 15 minutes late for the day, as overtime is unpaid. I often stay late to ensure projects are completed on time even though it is unpaid and does not balance out any lateness. – Lyall Nov 12 '15 at 1:02
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    For what it's worth, that policy would be infuriating to me. I would either find a new job, or work no overtime at all. – Paul Hiemstra Nov 13 '15 at 7:58
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    @Lyall: To me, regular required uncompensated overtime would already be sufficient reason to look for a new job - it's essentially a unilateral pay cut. But that's up to you to judge. – sleske Nov 13 '15 at 10:26
  • @Lyall do you mean unpaid, as in not time and a half or totally not paid at all? My place has an unofficial flex-time type of thing going on. As long as get 40 hours a week, all good. If more than, then carry them to next week. All on honor system. I wouldn't like a system like yours. Even when I worked retail if was 3 minutes late, it was 3 minutes less pay. If stayed over 8 minutes, was 8 minutes more. – Dan Shaffer Nov 13 '15 at 15:39
  • @DanShaffer Unpaid as in completely unpaid. We can only dream of a flex-time system... – Lyall Nov 13 '15 at 15:54

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