The High Court has confirmed in the case of Cooper and others v Isle of Wight College that where an employee failed to work because they were participating in industrial action, the appropriate level of deductions from an employee's wages should be the amount the employee could sue for in relation to the withheld wages and not the overall loss of the employer.

Background

The claimants, full time support staff workers, took part in industrial action consisting of a one-day strike. The College, in response, made a deduction from their wages.

The amount, the claimants argued, was in excess of what the College was entitled to. They submitted that an employer was only entitled to deduct what the employee could sue for in an action for his withheld wages. In this case, this was for the hours not worked. The College, on the other hand, claimed that the value of the service lost by the hours not worked could be deducted.

The court agreed with the claimants and stated that, where the failure to work was a result of industrial action, the employer could not deduct the value of the overall losses of the employer but rather should deduct only the amount the employee could sue for in relation to the withheld wages.