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If a creditor takes money from your earnings

This advice applies to Scotland

Anyone who is employed - apart from serving members of the armed forces - can have money taken from their earnings to pay off a debt. This is called an 'earnings arrestment' or sometimes a 'wage arrestment'.

An earnings arrestment can't be used by someone you owe money if you're self-employed.

If you owe someone money (a creditor) and they want to use an earnings arrestment to make you pay your debt, they must send you a notice from a court or tribunal called a 'charge for payment' or a 'charge to pay'. They must also give you a Debt Advice and Information Package explaining your rights and encouraging you to get advice.

Some government agencies can take money from your earnings without going to court or a tribunal (see below).

Your creditor must send instructions for the earnings arrestment to your employer. Some of your earnings are protected from being taken, for example a disablement pension or allowance.

You should check that you owe the money your creditor is claiming and that they've followed the correct procedure.

If your creditor hasn't issued a charge for payment and a Debt Advice and Information Pack, they haven't followed the correct procedure and you can argue that the arrestment is illegal.

If you think the arrestment is illegal, you should get specialist advice on what to do next, for example from your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

If you owe money to more than one person

If more than one creditor wants to take money from your earnings, your employer still has to stick to the limits laid out in law. 

There's a complicated set of rules about how much each creditor can get. You might need advice from a specialist adviser, for example at your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

What cannot be taken from your earnings

Income or earnings which cannot be arrested are:

  • any disablement pension or allowance
  • any benefits
  • many public sector pensions (such as police pensions, teacher's pensions, civil service or local authority pensions)
  • any redundancy pay
  • tax credits.

These funds are exempt from an earnings arrestment, but if they enter a bank account they may be caught if an arrestment is lodged on that bank account.

When money can be taken without a court order

There are two ways in which money can be taken from your earnings without your creditor going to court or a tribunal:

  • a Deductions from Earnings Order (DEO) - for arrears of child support. This can only be used by the Child Support Agency or the Child Maintenance Service
  • a Direct Earnings Attachment (DEA) - if you've been overpaid a benefit. This is used by the Department for Work and Pensions.

If one of these agencies uses its powers to get its money back with a DEO or a DEA, there are complicated rules that have to be followed. You should get specialist advice about these rules.

When your employer can take further action

There might be a clause in your employment contract that says that an earnings arrestment is something you should be disciplined for. This is common in some areas of work, for example finance.

You might therefore need specialist employment advice as well as debt advice, for example from your local Citizens Advice Bureau.How much can be taken from your earnings

The amount that can be taken from your earnings will depend on how much you earn and whether it's paid daily, weekly or monthly. The amounts are shown in the tables below. Money that can be taken includes commissions, bonuses and Statutory Sick Pay.

You can get more help understanding how much can be taken from your earnings from your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

Table 1: How much can be taken from daily earnings (from 6 April 2019)

Net earnings (a day)

Deductions (a day)

Up to £17.42

None

From £17.43 to £62.97

50p or 19% of earnings over £17.42, whichever is more

From £62.98 to £94.67

£8.65 plus 23% of earnings over £62.97

Over £94.67

£15.95 plus 50% of earnings over £94.67

Table 2: How much can be taken from weekly earnings (from 6 April 2019)

Net earnings (a week)

Deductions (a week)

Up to £122.28

None

From £122.29 to £442.00

£4.00 or 19% of earnings over £122.28, whichever is more

From £442.01 to £664.50

£60.75 plus 23% of earnings over £442.00

Over £664.50

£111.92 plus 50% of earnings over £664.50

Table 3: How much can be taken from monthly earnings (from 6 April 2019)

Net earnings (a month)

Deductions (a month)

Up to £529.90

None

From £529.91 to £1,915.32

£15.00 or 19% of earnings over £529.90, whichever is more

From £1,915.33 to £2,879.52

£263.23 plus 23% of earnings over £1,915.32

Over £2,879.52

£484.00 plus 50% of earnings over £2,879.52

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