An attachment of earnings order is a way for creditors to automatically claw back the debt you owe, this is slightly different to a Direct Earnings Attachment (DEA). If you have received notice that your lenders will apply to the court for an attachment to earnings, you need to read this.

Discover all the details you need to know about these orders, and even a way you may be able to stop an attachment of earnings – right here!

What is an attachment of earnings?

An attachment of earnings – also erroneously called an “attachment to earnings” – is used to collect a debt by forcing your employer to deduct money from your take-home pay and send it to the court. The court will then use the money to pay your creditors. These wage deductions will continue for as long as it takes for all of the debt is paid back. 

In Scotland, there is an identical procedure but it is known as a wage arrestment. 

Is an attachment of earnings a County Court Judgment (CCJ)?

An attachment of earnings order is not a County Court Judgment, however, the creditor chasing you for the debt will need to have already taken you to court and have you issued with a county court judgment (CCJ) before being able to apply for the attachment of earnings. 

An attachment for earnings is a way to enforce debt payments if the debtor has ignored the county court judgment’s request to pay. Alternative ways to enforce the debt include using bailiffs and charging orders on property. 

What can you get an attachment of earnings order for?

The attachment to earnings is a judgment used to recover commercial debts, such as personal loan debt, credit card debt, rent arrears and utility bill debt. 

The creditor can apply to the court as soon as the CCJ is issued. It used to be that the debtor had to miss a repayment, but that is no longer the case. 

It can also be used to collect council tax debt with a slightly different process. 

Attachment of earnings and council tax

If you have a council tax debt, your local authority may also apply to use an attachment of earnings order. The same rules apply and you will make a monthly payment from your take-home wage to clear what is owed to the council. 

However, the amount you pay back is already fixed based on your salary.

When can an attachment of earnings orders be applied?

As mentioned, your creditor can only apply for an attachment of earnings order if you have already been taken to the county court and received a CCJ. Your debt must be at least £50, and you must be employed under the PAYE system (i.e. you pay tax as you earn money).

You cannot be subject to one of these orders if you are:

  1. Self-employed (there is no employer to deduct from your earnings)
  2. Unemployed
  3. Working in the army, navy or airforce (a different process is used)
  4. Working on a non-fishing boat

How much will I be paying?

The amount you will repay each payday will be decided by your income. You will declare your finances at the start of the process using a form that is sent out to you. The courts will analyse your situation and declare how much should be repaid each time. The UK Gov website states that the normal amount is £25, but this is not certain. 

In a nutshell, every case is unique. 

Protected earnings rate

There is a protected amount that you must earn before a deduction is made from your salary. At the time of writing, this is £150. 

For more information on this topic, you could speak with a registered charity online or over the phone. 

Attachment of earnings rates for council tax

The situation is a bit different for those repaying council tax arrears. The amount you have to repay is already fixed as percentages within different salary brackets. You can find a thorough explanation and current rates on many local authority websites online, such as this one. 

You will not repay anything if you earn below £75 or £300 each week or month, respectively. 

When does the money start being deducted?

Your employer will start to take money from your weekly or monthly wages as soon as the judgment is made. However, if the attachment of earnings was issued within seven days before your next payday, the first deduction will be on the following payday. This is to give you time to adjust your financial commitments and budget accurately. 

Will an attachment of earnings affect my job?

Most people’s employment is not affected by an attachment of earnings order. There may be some professions which are, namely those working in finance roles. You may be initially affected by the attachment of earnings and lose a license to be employed in your role – such as some workers in casinos – but can then reapply for the license and work again. 

What happens if I’m on maternity leave?

Statutory maternity pay can’t be deducted as part of an attachment of earnings order. If you have gone onto maternity leave and this is the only income you receive then you will not pay anything towards your debt from your wages during this time. 

What happens if I’m off work sick?

Statutory sick pay is classed as part of your salary that can be used to repay your debt. However, if this is the only money you are receiving then it is unlikely that deductions will be made because it is under the protected earnings rate. 

What happens if I get a new employer?

If you get a new employer during an attachment of earnings order, you must inform the new employer of the court order within seven days of starting your job. This is so they know they have to deduct money and send it to the courts. 

If you do not tell your employer within this timeframe, you are committing a criminal offence. 

You may feel worried about revealing your financial situation to the employer, but rest assured that they can’t disclose this information to other people in the workplace. 

Can I stop an attachment of earnings order?

There may be a way to stop an attachment to earnings order. When you are first notified of the creditors’ application, you receive a letter from the county court and a form to fill in. This form is called form N56 and is also known by the name “Statement of Means”. 

On the form, you can ask to suspend the attachment of earnings and offer to make payments directly yourself. If agreed and you miss a payment, the suspended attachment to earnings can be activated and you’ll repay from your salary. 

How many attachment to earnings can you have at one time?

If you already have one of these orders, you can ask the court for a consolidated attachment of earnings order. This is where you put all debts together and continue to have a single payment deducted from your salary (potentially a bigger one!) and have it shared out between all companies you owe. 

How to avoid an attachment to earnings order

The best way to avoid these orders is by paying your debt before it gets to the stage of legal action and CCJs. Most people do not realise how many solutions are out there. No matter what your financial situation or how many lenders you have, there is a solution.

We discuss the most popular option in our solutions guide!

For example, some debtors could write off everything by using a Debt Relief Order. This solution blocks all lenders from asking for payment for a year, and if you still can’t afford to repay after the 12 months is up, you can write it all off. 

If you have entered into a Debt Relief Order and you are still being chased by creditors or debt collectors asking for payment, use our free letter template to get them to stop.

Call a registered debt advice number for help!

If you need additional help or personalised support dealing with any of the topics above, call the number to a free debt advice service. You’ll be put in touch with an agent from a centre who has the knowledge to advise you best based on your circumstances. 

You can find lots of free services online, or you could use our own online charity guide to help you choose the right charity for you. 

About the author

Scott Nelson

Scott Nelson is a financial services expert, with over 10 years’ experience in the industry, including 6 years in FCA regulated companies. Read more
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