When employees at a national coffee chain claimed unfair deductions from their wages, it undoubtedly left a nasty taste in the mouth for the company in question.
A number of workers from Costa Coffee shops, that were run by franchises, told the BBC they had money taken from their salaries for training and other reasons including till discrepancies and running costs.
Julia Fitzsimmons, a Partner in our Employment team, looks how employers can avoid getting into hot water when it comes to deductions:
For a national chain like Costa Coffee, allegations of unfair practices when it comes to paying staff can be damaging to its brand, even if the circumstances relate to stores that were not under its direct control.
Whether you are a franchisee or business owner, the only way to protect yourself and your employee is to have a formal contract of employment with a deduction from wages clause from the outset. This would allow an employer to make a lawful deduction for any overpayment of wages or in relation to any genuine mistake.
To recoup any training costs, it is best to have a separate agreement in place before any training starts so that both parties are clear as to who is paying for the training.
Usually the employer pays for the training and there is a recoupment clause should the employee leave within a fixed period of time. If the employee remains with the employer for the set period - usually 12 to 24 months - then the employee is not required to repay the costs of any training.
It is very important that this agreement is discussed and signed by both parties before any training commences and not during or after. The employer must provide all health and safety training, which would be needed to allow someone to carry out their job, at no cost to the member of staff.
If you need assistance with drafting contracts so that lawful deductions from wages can be made and recoupment of training costs agreements, please contact Julia.