If you’ve received a letter about an ‘attachment of earnings’, you might be feeling worried. Don’t fret; you’re in the right place to learn what it is and what your options are.
Each month, over 170,000 people visit our website for help on money matters just like this one, so you’re not alone.
In this easy-to-understand guide, we’ll explain:
- What an ‘attachment of earnings’ order is.
- Why you might receive one.
- What to do if you get one.
- How to disagree if you don’t think you owe money.
- Ways to stop or change an ‘attachment of earnings’ order.
We know this can feel scary. Here at MoneyNerd, we’ve offered guidance to lots of people who have been in the same boat, so we understand and are here to help.
Let’s get started on understanding more about ‘attachment of earnings’.
What is an Attachment of Earnings Order?
An Attachment of Earnings Order is a court order that forces your employer to send some of your wages to the court. It is a garnishment of wages. This legal debt recovery monthly payment is then passed on to a claimant you owe money to. The employer might also deduct a £1 administration cost.
The claimant must apply to the court for an Attachment of Earnings Order against a debtor, also known as an N55 form. But they cannot ask for an Attachment of Earnings if you’re:
- Employed on a boat (excluding fishing boats)
- In the Navy, Air Force or Army (there is a separate process for people in these professions)
An Attachment of Earnings cannot be issued for debts of £50 or less.
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Why have I received an Attachment of Earnings Order?
You can only be subject to an Attachment of Earnings Order when you fail to repay a debt after you were ordered to pay via a County Court Judgment (CCJ).
If you fail to follow the CCJ order, the claimant can request an Attachment of Earnings Order to guarantee debt repayment. The claimant cannot request an Attachment of Earnings Order against you if a CCJ hasn’t yet been issued.
Many claimants will use this court-ordered debt collection method rather than legal enforcement agents (bailiffs) or a charging order, as they are guaranteed to get the money.
What is a County Court Judgment (CCJ)?
A CCJ is an order from the County Court for you to pay a monetary sum to a claimant. If you’re subject to a legal debt claim, you’ll be told to pay, and a CCJ will be issued.
If you don’t pay after a CCJ is issued or keep to a payment agreement, the claimant can ask for an Attachment of Earnings Order – not before!
How to apply for an Attachment of Earnings Order
To request an Attachment of Earnings Order against an individual without a judgement, you must fill in form N337 and pay court fees as part of the application process.
You’ll then need to send the form and the fee to:
|County Court Money Claims Centre (CCMCC)|
|PO Box 527|
You may need to check that the debtor is employed first and what sort of job they have as part of the court procedure. You might have to request an Order to Obtain Information to do this.
What happens when I get an Attachment of Earnings Order?
When your creditor requests to use an Attachment of Earnings, the court will send you an N56 Form. This is your opportunity to reply to the creditor’s request to use an Attachment of Earnings. You must provide the court with a complete budget summary covering all incomings and outgoings.
If you’re worried about the claim or creditor actions, seek reputable Attachment of Earnings support or legal advice.
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What if I disagree that I owe the money?
As an Attachment of Earnings can only be issued after a CCJ, the court has already examined the evidence and decided that you owe the money.
Can you stop an Attachment of Earnings Order?
Yes, it’s possible to stop an Attachment of Earnings Order sometimes successfully. This then gets known as a Suspended Attachment of Earnings Order.
To suspend the order, you need to tick a box on Form N56 stating that the order will cause you financial hardship. You’ll need to prove this is the case, such as the order causing you difficulty maintaining essential living costs.
Your case can be strengthened by supplying a statement by someone who can confirm you cannot pay the Attachment of Earnings and your essential living expenses.
If you apply for a suspension of order for an Attachment of Earnings, it’s best to let the creditor know. They might then look for legal alternatives for you to repay.
If you’re subject to a Deduction of Earnings specifically for child maintenance arrears, there might be a way to stop this order. Uncover the details in our How to Stop a Deduction of Earnings post.
What happens when I send back the court form?
After replying with the court form, you’ll receive a court response telling you either:
- The Attachment of Earnings has been granted with information on how much will be taken from your wages.
- The Attachment of Earnings has been suspended.
What happens if I don’t send the form back?
Failing to complete and return the form is a criminal offence. The court could simply issue the Attachment of Earnings and inform your employer. But not filling in the form could even result in a prison sentence.
How much will I pay on an Attachment of Earnings?
Based on your circumstances, the court will decide the amount deducted on an Attachment of Earnings.
Each debtor will have a “protected earnings rate”, a minimum amount that must be paid to you each payday, even if it causes the deduction amount to be less than what’s usually required.
If a normal full deduction cannot be made, the employer must not try and recover the previous unpaid monies on the next payday.
The employer can take a £1 payment from your wage to cover administration costs. The employer isn’t forced to take this payment, and they can still take it if the £1 causes your pay to go below the protected earnings rate.
However, they cannot take the £1 if it causes them to pay you less than the National Minimum Wage.
What if I disagree with the order made by the court?
If you believe the order asks for too much money to be deducted, you can request that the order amount is changed. You must do this within 14 days of the order being approved, and you will have to pay a small fee as there will be a court hearing.
Can I make an alternative payment arrangement so that my employer does not have to make deductions?
Once the Attachment of Earnings Order has been approved, you won’t be able to arrange alternative payment methods.
How long does an Attachment of Earnings Order last?
Attachment of Earnings Orders lasts until the debt has been fully repaid. The Order won’t appear on your credit report. However, that does not mean there are no financial consequences. The CCJ that will preclude the Attachment of Earnings will feature on your report, and this will impact your credit score for six years, making it much more difficult to get any form of credit, including a mortgage or even rent a property.
Will any overtime I work be included?
Yes, any extra money you work from overtime will also be subject to Attachment of Earnings deductions. This is likely to increase your monthly contribution and could result in paying off the debt quicker.
Will deductions be made if I am on sick pay?
Attachment of Earnings deductions can be taken from sick pay.
Can my employer make deductions from redundancy payments?
No, if you have received a lump sum payout as part of a redundancy, your employer cannot send part of this payment to the court.
Can my employer deduct payments from statutory maternity pay?
No. Statutory maternity pay won’t be subject to Attachment of Earnings deductions. However, contractual maternity pay can be deducted and sent to the court.
Can I tell my employer not to make deductions?
No. Your employer could be prosecuted if it fails to make the deductions required and have to pay a fine of up to £1000.
When does the money start being deducted?
Deductions start on the next payday after the Attachment of Earnings Order is approved. The only exception is when the order is granted within seven days of the next payday. When this happens, deductions will start from the following payday.
What happens if I get a new employer?
It’s a criminal offence to not tell the court about your new employment details within seven days of the new job. The new employer will then be notified of the Attachment of Earnings Order and told to send deductions to the court.
What happens if I stop working?
If you stop working, no deductions can be made, as you won’t receive any employment income. However, this doesn’t mean the Attachment of Earnings is cancelled. It will resume when you start working again.
If you’re out of work for a long time, you might be able to apply for the order to be stopped.
How will I know how much is left to pay?
You can find out how much is left to pay by contacting Centralised Attachment of Earnings Payments (CAPS). They can tell you how much is left to pay and send you a transaction list of all the payments.
Can you have 2 Attachments of Earnings Orders?
Yes, it’s possible to have two Attachments of Earnings Orders simultaneously. You can ask for Attachment of Earnings Orders to be consolidated, aptly named a Consolidated Attachment of Earnings.
However, creditors can try to stop you from getting a Consolidated Attachment of Earnings.
How many Attachment of Earnings can you have at one time?
The maximum number of Attachment of Earnings Orders you can have at one time is two for council tax. However, you can also have attachments of orders for other things, as shown below. This was later clarified by someone posting on behalf of Stepchange:
How do I get out of an Attachment of Earnings?
As discussed earlier in this post, the only way to get out of an Attachment of Earnings without having payments deducted from your wage is to suspend it. The only other way to get out of an Attachment for Earnings is by clearing the debt and seeing out the order.
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How to Avoid an Attachment of Earnings Order
The best way to avoid an Attachment of Earnings Order is to avoid a CCJ. And the best way to avoid a CCJ is to deal with your debts before they escalate to litigation.
You don’t have to be able to afford your debts to deal with them and prevent a CCJ. Many informal and formal debt solutions can get you out of debt and even write off some of your debt.
You can also contact free debt advice services, such as Stepchange, Citizens Advice, PayPlan and National Debtline.
What is the DEA table on my payslip?
A DEA on your wage slip refers to a Direct Earnings Attachment (DEA) contribution. A DEA isn’t the same as an Attachment of Earnings, and it’s not a court order. It’s a wage reduction that the DWP, HMRC, or a local council for council tax arrears can request.
Direct Earnings Attachment for outstanding council tax bill
If you fail to pay your council tax after a final notice, the local authority could use a Direct Earnings Attachment (DEA). This is one of the most common ways for local authorities to recover council tax arrears from debtors unwilling to pay.
You can find further information on dealing with council tax debt by taking a digital hop back to our debt info page.