How long will you have to pay back your debt through an attachment of earnings order? We discuss the complete process and reveal how long you’ll be forced to pay back the debt. 

Read on to find out the details! 

Is an attachment of earnings a County Court Judgment?

An attachment of earnings is not a County Court Judgment but it is a court order. The debtor has to have been issued with a County Court Judgment ordering them to pay a debt before the creditor can apply for an attachment of earnings order. 

So, what is an attachment of earnings?

An attachment of earnings order is an order by the court that instructs an employer to deduct money from your wages and send it to the courts instead, meaning your take-home pay is reduced. The court then sends the money to the creditor. 

The creditor will apply to the court for this order because you are failing to repay the debt after the County Court Judgment was issued. Sometimes the order is applied in combination with an administration order. 

Who can receive an attachment of earnings order?

You must have an active CCJ to be issued with one of these orders. As well as a CCJ, you need to:

  1. Owe more than £50
  2. Have an employer paying you through the PAYE system 

If you are self-employed you can’t be subject to these orders because you do not have an employer to make the deductions for the court. You also cannot be issued with one of these orders if you work in the armed services or work on a (non-fishing) boat. 

Attachment of earnings vs direct earnings attachment

Don’t confuse attachment of earnings orders with direct earnings attachment orders. The latter is issued without having to attend county court because you have been overpaid tax credits or benefits. The money will be paid in the same way as the former, i.e. through monthly deductions from your wage.

How long does an attachment of earnings last?

An attachment of earnings order will last until all of the debt has been paid back. Your company or any new employer will continue to take money from your wages until everything has been back.

If you have one of these orders as part of an administration order that only lasts for three years, you may end the order without paying back everything owed to lenders and companies.

The process of an attachment of earnings order

If your creditor applies for an attachment of earnings order, the court will write to you to let you know. Within their letter, they will include a “statement of means” form, officially known as N56. This is so the court can consider your finances and decide how much your monthly payment should be. 

You have to fill in this form and return it to the court within eight days. You may be prosecuted if you don’t comply. 

The fines and council tax exception

If you receive one of these orders due to council tax arrears or unpaid court fines, there will be no form to complete. This is because the amount you pay back each month is a fixed percentage. 

Learn more about council tax debt here!

How much can be taken on attachment of earnings?

The amount the court will instruct your employer to deduct is related to your income and essential costs. You will only repay what you can reasonably afford after essential expenses. 

Moreover, the court sets a protected earnings rate, which is the amount of money you must receive from your take-home wage each month. If you do not earn this amount, you will not repay anything. 

If you think you are paying too much, you can apply to the court to have your payments reduced by completing form N244. 

If your employment ends, the payments also end but the order does not stop. Once you have a new employer you have to tell them about the order within seven days. If you fail to inform your new employer, it’s a criminal offence. 

When does the money start being deducted?

Your employer will start to deduct payments as soon as the order is granted. This means you will make a payment from your very next wage. 

Can my employer charge a fee?

Some employers will charge a £1 administration cost to process the payment. 

Will an attachment of earnings order affect my job?

The will not affect the debtor’s job in most situations. There are a handful of finance jobs that could be affected. You can even request the order is stopped if your employment could end due to the order. But there is no guarantee you will be successful.

If you are concerned that your employment is under threat by the order, you should seek immediate debt help from or Citizens Advice. 

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

If you have multiple CCJs in your name and those creditors want to receiver the debt through these types of orders, you can apply for an order called a consolidated attachment of earnings order. Your single monthly deduction will then be used to repay all your debts. 

Be aware that when the orders are consolidated, the courts take a 10% fee from the money which is paid to creditors, meaning it costs more. 

You must make this application in writing and provide evidence of your income. You can do this with the help of our budgeting guide!

Can you stop an attachment of earnings order?

When you complete the form sent to you in the post, there is an option to ask for the order to be stopped. Two common reasons for requesting this are:

  1. It could cause you to lose your employment (financial industry workers)
  2. It will cause you financial hardship

It may be possible to cancel the order if you have been out of work for a long time. You will need to contact the courts and make this request. 

How to avoid an attachment of earnings order

If you have been issued with a CCJ, the best way to avoid an attachment of earnings order is to repay the debt in full or agree to a different solution. If you are struggling to find a way to pay off the judgment, you should seek advice from a charity. 

If you have yet to be issued with an order from a judge to repay your debt, it’s still worth assessing various debt solutions. We discuss a number of them on this page!

Will an attachment of earnings appear on my credit report?

The order will not appear on your credit report, but the CCJ you must have been issued with in order to receive the attachment of earnings order will appear on your credit report. 

The CCJ will remain on your credit file for six years and then it is deleted. If you pay the debt off within that time, the CCJ is marked as satisfied but still remains on the credit report until six years have passed.

It can be difficult to source further credit with a CCJ on your file – but it’s not impossible. 

Where can I find my credit report?

You could consult your credit report for free online by using a credit reference agency website. Make sure to cancel after any free trial to avoid fees.

Free attachment of earnings order debt advice

If you want free debt advice or help to deal with anything related to the questions above, you could contact a debt charity. They provide a free call centre service so you can fight back against debts and creditors using your rights.

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