What Normally Happens When You Lose a Paycheck?

While many people are now paid by direct deposit, some employers do still pay by paper check. Since many workers live from paycheck to paycheck, when one is lost or destroyed it can be a traumatic experience. The good news is that most employers have well-established procedures for replacing your check. The bad news is that many of them wait for confirmation of the lost check's cancellation, meaning that it can take weeks before your replacement check arrives.

Notifying the Employer

Most employers require that you contact them as soon as you know your paycheck is lost. If your check is mailed to you, many companies require a waiting period before you decide your check was lost in the mail. The typical procedure requires the employee to notify either her supervisor or payroll department. The employee must then complete a form attesting to the fact that she believes the check is lost or destroyed. Some employers require this form be notarized before you submit it.

Issuing the Stop-Payment

Once the form is received, the employer notifies the bank that issued the paycheck to put a stop on it. This means that the check will not be honored if someone attempts to cash it. Typically, employers will wait until notification of the stop-payment before they will issue a new paycheck. Because banks charge a fee for stop-payments, some employers charge the same fee to the employee, especially if the employee was at fault for losing the check.

Reissuing the Check

Once the stop-payment has been verified by the bank, the employer will typically issue a new check. In small companies, the employee may pick up the new check in the accounting department. However, when payroll is handled by a third-party processor, there may be no alternative to waiting until the new check arrives in the mail.

Turn-Around Time

The entire process of completing the paperwork, stopping payment on the check and receiving the new paycheck can take many days. Because lost checks are a relatively infrequent occurrence, few companies have fast-track procedures for it, so paperwork can sit on someone's desk for a day or two before it is processed. Companies typically advise employees that it may take about two weeks for them to receive their reissued paycheck.

If the Check Turns Up

If your original paycheck shows up -- either in the mail or under the sofa -- while you're waiting for your new check, virtually all employers require you not to cash it. Because the check may already have a stop-payment placed on it, the bank will not honor it when it is presented for payment, which means headaches for you, your bank, and your employer's bank. Instead, most employers require you to return the check to the payroll department, so they have verification that it is not still at large.

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