Labour Rights

Salary deductions are made without authorization or employee’s knowledge


Every worker has the right to just and favourable conditions of work, including to be paid fair wages for their work.


Deducting money out of an employee’s wages before they are paid in full and without their consent is an unauthorised deduction. This may give rise to a situation of debt bondage, a form of modern slavery. Migrant workers are at higher risk of debt bondage due to recruitment or visa fees, unauthorized deductions from wages, and lack of access to support networks.


The ILO has outlined three key principles relating to the protection of wages. First, deductions of any type, to be lawful, require an appropriate legal basis (e.g., national laws and regulations or collective agreements). Second, all authorized deductions must be limited to ensure workers can have a decent living income (the net amount of wages received by workers should ordinarily be a sufficient living wage). Third, in the case of deductions, workers must have the relevant information regarding the grounds for wage deductions communicated to them in advance of any wage or salary decrease.


Disciplinary deductions (deductions aimed at disciplining a worker) may be unauthorized where there is no basis in law for doing so. Similarly, payment in kind (substituting a salary for accommodation or food) can be a form of unauthorized deduction. This is particularly prevalent among migrant workers and domestic workers, as they are often wholly reliant on their employer for accommodation, food or other resources.


Businesses must avoid unauthorized salary deductions or deductions made without the employee’s knowledge, and undertake due diligence to ensure other businesses in its supply chain do not engage in such activities.

Relevant Human Rights Instruments

ILO Recommendation concerning the Protection of Wages, 1949 (No. 85)
ILO Convention concerning the Protection of Wages, 1949 (No. 95)
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966, Article 8
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, 1990



SDG 8.7

Ensuring salary deductions are not made without employee authorization or knowledge may promote SDG 8.7: Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms.

SDG 8.8
Ensuring salary deductions are not made without employee authorization or knowledge also promotes SDG 8.8: Protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment.