Petrol station workers who have fuel stolen on their shift are being forced to pay for the thefts, the Sunday People has revealed.
In a practice branded 'illegal and immoral' by union bosses, staff have had the cost of the lost fuel docked from their wages by their employers.
More and more drivers are failing to pay after filling up, in a crime known as bilking. Bilking is reported to have cost garages £31.4million last year, which is an increase on 2012, when it resulted in a total loss of £24.6million. The average theft is £50 to £60 of fuel, which can mean a significant wage deduction for the worker in charge at the time.
Garage owners and the Petrol Retailers Association believe that docking wages is acceptable under certain circumstances.
Brian Madderson, chairman of the association, which represents independent forecourts, commented: "Every fuel purchase has to be visualised and authorised. If not, it may well be after one warning, the cashier could be liable to pay it back.
"The cashier has to complete a form saying they understand what the penalties are. It's very irregular because there are other sanctions before you get to a financial penalty."
"It is illegal to deduct wages unless it is specifically written into people's contract of employment," he said.
"In most cases it's legally not right. It's morally not right. It's the responsibility of the forecourt owner to install security such as number plate recognition. They shouldn't pass on their responsibilities to their lowest-paid members of staff."