Earning Arrestments and FAQs

What are Earning Arrestments?

In Scotland, Earnings Arrestments, (also known as wage arrestments), are a form of Diligence, which is a legal term for procedures used to recover debts.

What Earning Arrestments do, is allow your creditors, the people you owe money, to recover that money from you by forcing your employer to deduct it from your wages, usually on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

Your Employer has no choice but to comply with the order, if it is served on him by a Sheriff Officer; but he can only deduct certain amounts from your wages and cannot leave you without any money.

Normally, an Earnings Arrestment continues until such time the debt is paid off, which would include paying off any interest and legal costs your creditor has incurred in trying to recover the debt from you.

It sometimes can be possible to get an Earnings Arrestment stopped before the debt is repaid in full. To find out more about this see below.

How do Earning Arrestments work?

Before a Sheriff Officer can execute an Earnings Arrestment, however, they must first ensure the creditor has met the necessary legal requirements enabling them to do so. This means they must first have obtained a court order or its equivalent, or have a document of debt that provides them with a warrant to recover their debt using an Earnings Arrestment (this is known as Summary Diligence).

A court order is an order granted by the Sheriff in the Sheriff Court, although it can also be granted by the Court of Session. The legal equivalent of a court order, a Summary Warrant, is also granted by the Sheriff Court for certain types of Government debts, such as council tax arrears, owed to local authorities; or income tax, owed to HMRC.

A document of debt is more complex, but certain creditors like landlords and credit unions can register debts for what is known as preservation and execution in the Books of Council and Session. This allows them to legally recover debts using a sheriff officer, without going to court. This process is known as Summary Diligence. However, for them to do this you need to give them permission when you enter into the original agreement and which the debt arose from. This is not an option open to credit card companies and banks.

Prior to instructing a Sheriff Officer to execute an Earnings Arrestment, a creditor first must instruct them to serve what is known as a Charge for Payment. This is a legal demand for payment that is served by a Sheriff Officer. It gives you 14 days to pay your debt in full. If you fail to pay the debt within the 14 days, the lender is then in a position where he can instruct the Sheriff Officer to arrest your wages.

Practical Considerations of an Earnings Arrestment

There are many practical considerations that a lender must take into consideration before they execute an Earnings Arrestment. The first of these is, he must know where you work. If he does not know where you work, Sheriff Officers will obviously struggle to serve the schedule on your employer.

Even if they do know where you work, another practical consideration is whether the Arrestment will be successful, in that you may not earn enough for any deductions to be made from your wages. 

Finally, a creditor incurs legal costs in executing an Earnings Arrestment, which they may lose if you later choose to use an option like a Protected Trust Deed or Sequestration

Also, the Earnings Arrestment may have the effect of making you seek advice and, even if you choose not to use an insolvency solution, you may apply for a Debt Payment Programme under the Debt Arrangement Scheme or a Time to Pay Order, both of which if successful would result in the earning arrestment being lifted. 

For these reasons, most creditors will only take the risk of executing an Earnings Arrestment if they feel all other options have been explored and exhausted.

Can you have more than one Earning Arrestment?

More than one wage arrestment is possible at the same time. This is known as a conjoined arrestment and is administered by by the local sheriff clerk, rather than the employer.

It does not mean you have to pay more.  Instead what happens is the amount deducted  is divided up between those that are owed the money.

It also means the first creditor who arrested the wages will see the amount they get being reduced.  It also means those who execute the second wage arrestment wont get what they would have if they had been the only creditor arresting the wages. For this reason, it can be to advantageous to explain to other creditors you already have an arrestment in place.  This may put them off from taking furher action and encourage them to accept an informal offer from you instead.

However, if you believe you are about to get a second wage arrestment,  you should seek  advice. A conjoined wage arrestment will stop you applying for the Debt Arrangement Scheme, unless another creditor tries to lawful enforce their debts.  This can place you at a disadvantage, as in the Debt Arrangement Scheme  all debts can be included, with interest and charges frozen, which does not happen in a conjoined earning arrestment.

Can Earning Arrestments be taken from Sick Pay?

Can a wage arrestment be taken off your sick pay? 

Yes, it can.  This is because sick pay, even Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is treated as income and a wage arrestment can be taken from your sick pay.

However, if all your receive is Statutory Sick Pay, as the current amount payable is only £92.05 per week, this means nothing can be taken as the first £113.68 is protected.

However, If you are in receipt of contractual sick pay, which is an increased amount, payable over and above SSP, you may have to pay something.

To see how much, view the earning arrestment tables.

Readers Questions

  1. Peter

    Hi

    I also noticed that people have had universal credit deductions for council tax arrears but they’ve never once taken money from me in 4 years. I don’t understand how or why I have to tell my employer about the debt. Can’t I just pay it off, why would I have to tell them and potentially ruin my job.

    1. Scottish Adviser

      Hi Peter

      It sounds like you have been lucky to not have had deductions from your benefits, however, deductions from benefits like wages is an option open to them.

      Basically, as there is a debt outstanding and it is in the hands of the Sheriff Officers, they can arrest your wages. If you want to pay the debt you can contact the Sheriff Officers to try and negotiate a repayment plan, or contact you local advice agency and get some advice and assistance.

  2. Peter

    Hi

    I have just started a new job. I have previously been on benefits for around 4 years and had letters from the sheriff office now and then. What will happen to my first wage? Will I have access to it? I’ve had access to every benefit payment I’ve received during the period of receiving letters. I’ve only been at my place of work for 2 weeks

    1. Scottish Adviser

      Hi Peter

      Nothing may happen to your wages, however, if the Sheriff Officers learn you are working and where you are working they may arrest your wages. When they do this, your employer is notified and has to make deductions from them and pass the money over to the Sheriff Officers.

      Alternatively, they can also arrest your bank account. If they do this they only have to leave you with £529.90.

      If you are worried about getting your wages arrested of your bank account frozen, you should seek advice from your local advice agency.

  3. Gordon

    My wife left her job via redundancy recently, with her official last day being july 10th.
    Her boss failed to make full and final payment of her Statutory Redundancy payment and her PILON payment until after the required due day, the 10th july.

    She was subject to a wage arrestment at this time.

    Her (now ex) employer allowed the sheriff officers to apply for a court order (ordinary arrestment in execution) so as to attach her redundancy payment.
    They then took over half her statutory redundancy payment.

    This new application was made and executed on 12th july, a full 2 days after my wifes official final day of employment (10th).

    We are currently awaiting our tribunal court date for unlawful deduction from Statutory redundancy pay by her employer, as it was him who deducted the money, which was due on the 10th july.

    My question is, did the original arrestment end on 10th july, when she no longer worked there, and is the new application for the ordinary arrestment in execution, competent, when it was her (ex) boss who executed the new order in his hands, and gave the money to the sheriff officers when :
    A) she no longer worked there
    B) her boss was obliged to have settled all financial business with my wife no later than her final day of employment on the 10th july.

    Should she wait until the tribunal verdict on the unlawful deduction complaint, or try get the money from the sheriff officers directly?

    1. Scottish Adviser

      Hi Gordon

      Normally redundancy payments don’t count as Earnings, so cannot be arrested using an Earning Arrestment.
      Also when your wife’s employer made his last payment of Earnings to her, this is when the Earning Arrestment ended.
      In relation to the Arrestment in Execution, this is different. Unlike an Earning Arrestment it is a one off event and Arrests funds held by a third party that is owed to someone.
      This is normally what we call bank account arrestments, but can be used against other third parties holding funds that are not banks.
      The Employer has to do what the Sheriff Officers instruct them to do, so I am not sure if your action against the employer will succeed. However, if it is possible to show the Arrestment was unduly harsh it may be possible to restrict or get lifted the Arrestment in Execution.
      To do this I would advise contacting your local advice agency for help as it will involve raising an action in the Sheriff Court.

  4. Alan

    Hi
    I work self employed, I have an order against me for several thousand pounds. I do work for a company and get paid weekly by them, can these earnings be arrested?

    1. Scottish Adviser

      If you are owed money by a 3rd Party, whether its wages, or payment as a contractor, then this money can be attached by creditors.

      If you are an employee, and receive wages, then this can be done by a wage arrestment.

      If the payments are money owed to you as a subcontractor, then they can be attached using an Action of Arrestment and Furthcoming. These are commonly known as Bank Account Arrestments, because that is what they are primarily used for, but they can attach funds held by anyone that owes you money. This is normally a bank, but it could be someone who owes you money as you have done work for them, or even a tenant where you are a Landlord. They can of course arrest your bank account also.

  5. Neil

    What happens to an employer if they don’t implement an Earnings Arrestment – do they get fines or sanctioned??

    1. Scottish Adviser

      Hi

      If an employer fails to execute a wage arrestment, then they can be personally liable for the debt to the extent they could have recovered it through the wage arrestment.

  6. Donna

    Hi, you gave me advise previously which I used to get a Sheriff Officer to admit they had continued an earnings arrestment which the council had told them to withdraw, they simply allocated the continued payments to another year. They refunded the extra payments (thank you!).

    However this meant they still had an earnings arrestment in place when they tried to serve another. I have since discovered when my employer told them there was an existing arrestment, they simply emailed them to just start using the new one served and they would send a withdrawal letter for the existing one.

    I have enough proof built up now and want to apply to sheriff court to have the new arrestment declared not competent, invalid, (it is now finished and want to request a refund), but I am unsure which procedure to use…the new simple procedure or would there be a specific application for this?

    Any help much appreciated!

    Thank you

    1. Scottish Adviser

      Hi Donna

      I do recall you from before and I am glad you have had a partial refund.

      What is going to be really important here is that you can evidence that when the Earning Arrestment was executed, that is served on your employer, you had a Statutory Moratorium in place (bearing in mind when you put it on this time last year it would only have lasted 42 days). If you can show that you could argue it was incompetent for them to execute it (see s197(3)(b) of the Bankruptcy (Scotland) Act 2016).

      It should, therefore, follow it should fall and all funds recovered using it and the costs of them doing it, should be refunded to you. They should then have withdrawn it and executed another one during a period when you have not had a Moratorium in place.

      Now if you believe you can prove this, preferably with documentary evidence, then you can ask the Sheriff Court to review the Arrestment and whether it was valid under s50 of the Debtors (Scotland) Act 1987. You can ask the Sheriff to order it be lifted as it was not competent for them to serve it when they did and also for a consequential order requesting all the funds taken under it be reimbursed to you.

      To do this there is a procedure under the Act of Sederunt (Proceedings in the Sheriff Court under the Debtors (Scotland) Act 1987) 1988.

      The relevant provision in that legislation is Regulation 40 (click on link).

      The actual form you use is Form 32 in the Schedule (click link).

      If I can suggest something, it is you possibly seek advice from your local advice agency. There is a Citizen Advice Bureau in your area.

      There is also a Council Money Advice Service that are very good and may be able to take it up internally, though I don’t know if they could represent you in court.

      You could also take your argument and evidence to the Society of Messenger at Arms and Sheriff Officers first.

      I believe making an application under s50 of the Debtors (Scotland) Act 1987 is free, but the Sheriff Clerks Office should be able to clarify that. Most applications under the 1987 Act are free to make.

  7. Yvonne

    Hi

    Sheriff Officers have sent a wage arrestment in my name to my partners employers with their date of birth.

    My partner will get into trouble as this breaches the code of conduct they work by.

    How can I get them to put it back to me.

    1. Scottish Adviser

      Hi Yvonne

      Contact the Sheriff Officers and explain the mistake.

      Your partner’s employers should reject the wage arrestment if it is not in his name and it is incorrect and should not arrest his wage.

      However, if the debt is one you are both joint and several liable for, like Council Tax, they may just issue another wage arrestment in his name, which they can do and try and arrest his earnings.

      They are legally entitled to do this if he is liable for the debt. He can apply for a Statutory Moratorium which will give him protection for six months, to try and sort things out. However, the Moratorium will only work if they have not already executed a competent wage arrestment. If they have then the Moratorium will not lift it.

      There are other ways to lift wage arrestments, and you should contact your local advice agency about this.

      If the debt is only in your name, then the wage arrestment against your partner should fail and he should not get into trouble as he cannot be held responsible for your debts.

  8. Shirley

    Hi, I have an Arrestment on my wages. If I pay this off what happens and is it a straight forward process to pay it off?

    1. Scottish Adviser

      Hi Shirley

      It is a relatively easy process to pay off a debt that is being recovered by a wage arrestment.

      Contact the Sheriff Officers that arrested the wages and ask them for a balance first of the full amount you owe, not only for that debt, but any other debts they are collecting.

      The reason I say this is because where it is Council Tax debt in particular, it is not uncommon for several years to be owed. Each year is treated as a separate debt, and collected individually with one wage arrestment at a time. Once one is paid off they apply the next wage arrestment.

      If your aim is to stop the wage arrestment, you will need to pay off all debts, or come to an agreement with the Sheriff Officers that if you pay off the one the arrestment is for, they will enter into a repayment plan with you for the rest and not just execute another wage arrestment.

      However, if it is just the one debt and you can repay it, you do this via the Sheriff Officers who will then instruct your employers to stop the wage arrestment.

      If you cannot afford to pay it off and you need it stopped, there are other ways to stop wage arrestments (How to stop Wage Arrestments).

      1. Shirley

        Thank you.

        Also, if I leave my job what happens to the debt owed if I do not have another job for them to arrest wages from?

        1. Scottish Adviser

          Hi Shirley

          Well if your not working the wage arrestment ends, as you have no wage from where it can be taken from.

          If you do go to another job, your current employer is legally required to tell the Sheriff Officers where you have moved to, if he knows.

          If you claim benefits, like Universal Credit, then it can be recovered from that by deductions if its Council Tax Arrears.

          Finally, Sheriff Officers can look at other forms of Diligence to recover the debt, such as bank account arrestments.

  9. Stewart

    Hi,
    I currently have 2 earnings arrestments for council tax,.
    Question, can they take 2 at the same time

    1. Scottish Adviser

      Hi Stewart

      You can have two debts being recovered by Earning Arrestments at the same time, but it doesn’t mean you pay twice.

      It is called a Conjoined Earning Arrestment and the money is split between both debts. It’s unusual for Councils to run two wage arrestments at the same time, they normally do the oldest first and when that finishes, put a new one on for the later debt.

  10. Rebecca

    Hi,

    My husband has received a Earning Arrestment Schedule letter from Stirling Park on 4th November 2020 stating he owes £3500 to a previous employer, we knew nothing about this until we received the letter! We have tried calling and emailing Stirling Park and are getting nothing back from them.

    We have spoke to Citizens Advice and to be honest they were no help at all. It states on the letter that a charge for payment was served back in 2019, we have never had anything from this previous employer or anyone else until now, if we had, then we obviously would have dealt with this when we had received it.

    He has filled out a Form 33 and registered this on the AiB website today. We just want to know what should we do going forward? If he has registered on the AiB will this stop the wage arrestment from going ahead? We have no idea what this debt is for, he didn’t take out any loans from his employer nor did he owe them any equipment.

    We just want to buy ourselves time to investigate why his previous employer is stating he owes them money. Any help or advice is greatly appreciated.

    1. Scottish Adviser

      Hi

      If the wage arrestment has been executed then it is likely the Statutory Moratorium will be too late.

      It does not lift the wage arrestment but only prevents it being applied for a while (currently six months).

      The Charge for Payment is a precursor to recovery action being taken, such as a wage arrestment and remains active for 2 years after it was served.

      It also usually cannot be served without a court action being raised first. So it would appear the former employer has taken your husband to court and got a court order. This means the debt is now owed. The time to dispute it was then.

      The best way to check is to obtain a free Statutory Credit Report, as this show if a Court Decree has been obtained.

      There is another process that can be used to execute a Charge for Payment called Summary Diligence, but I would not expect that to be used for a debt like this.

      It maybe your husband may have to consider his options: allowing the wage arrestment to continue, paying off the debt via the Sheriff Officers or looking at other ways to lift a wage arrestment (see here).

      1. Lee

        Hi,
        I owe £351 to Stirling Park for unpaid bus lane fines.

        I have been given a final 14 days to pay it or I could receive an arrest of earnings.

        I work as a delivery driver for dominos and barely scrape £700 a month.

        Can they arrest my wages if I don’t pay it ?

        Thanks

        1. Scottish Adviser

          Hi Lee

          I am assuming you have received a Charge for Payment.

          If it is they can arrest your wages. The first £529.90 is protected each month, after that they can take 19% each month until the debt is repaid. You can see how much they can take here.

          You may want to look at a Statutory Moratorium, but that is only a temporary solution until you can received advice. You can contact your Local Advice Agency.

  11. George

    HI

    Can they arrest Universal credits or take your car off you for a unpaid parking ticket?

    1. Scottish Adviser

      Hi George

      It really depends on what type of Parking Fine you have and what procedures they have used.

      Parking fines given by Police Officers or traffic wardens are different from those issued by local authority parking officers or private firms.

      They are all enforceable legally, normally, but you may be able to appeal or challenge a ticket. How they can be enforced also differs.

      See my page on the type of tickets you can get and what your options are.

      Click Here.

  12. Tracy

    Hi

    Can you tell me what 1st scottish EA means?

    ..and how do i find out where and who to my deductiond are going to?

    My monthly pay has been getting deducted with an EA since March.

    1. Scottish Adviser

      Hi Tracy

      Yes it means Scottish Earning Arrestment.

      The reason why it specifies the type is there are different types of devices that can be used to arrest wages. See here.

      The best way is to ask your payroll as they will send the money to a Sheriff Officer firm. You can then call them and ask them who is arresting your wages and how much is left to pay.

      Be careful though, as often when it’s for Council Tax, they will wait for one years debt to be paid, then apply another years after that. This can go on indefinetly unless you start paying the current Council Tax.

      There is also ways you can sometimes stop wages arrestments. See here.

  13. vicky

    Hi.

    Could you please tell me the maximum amount that can be taken off a 4 weekly pay of £1036?

    1. Scottish Adviser

      Hi Vicky
      I am presuming the £1036 is the net amount, after tax and deductions.
      If that is the case,divide it to get the weekly amount. £1,036 divided by 4 is £259.
      For a normal wage arrestment, the weekly protected amount is £122.28. That leaves £136.72 (£259-£122.28).
      Of that only 19% can be took (£136.73 x 19%). That is £25.97. Multiply that by 4 to get the 4 weekly amount. The most they can take is £104. (*see here for wage arrestment tables).
      However, remember that is its a wage arrestment. If they freeze your bank account, they can take everything above £529.90.
      Find out how you can stop wage arrestments here.
      If you have time I would appreciate if you can give me a Trust Pilot Review. Thanks

  14. Daisy

    My son has had over £400 deducted from his wages for council tax arrears for 2018 for an address he has never lived at.He has lived with us over 30 years and on the electoral roll since he was 18 untill he moved to his own place last year.Emails to and fro from the debt collecting agency arent getting any where,they want more information regarding the account.He has provided proof from employer that since being with the company the addresses he has been registered to are not the address they have claimed the money for unpaid council tax for.What can we do next to get his money back and have his name cleared.

    1. Scottish Adviser

      Hi Daisy

      First can I apologise in not getting back to you sooner, I have just been very busy.

      The issue is not with the employer, they just execute the instructions of the Sheriff Officers.

      The problem is with the Local Authority, as clearly they have held your Son liable for a property he has never lived at.

      I would submit a written complaint to the Local Authority and provide the proof he has of where he has lived for the period they were claiming he was living somewhere else.

      Provide a reasonable amount of evidence, but remember the burden is on them to show they have the correct person, not the other way around.

      There are then two processes open to him

      First, if his complaint is not satisfactorily resolved within 20 days, he can then make a complaint to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman Service (SPSO)

      However, he can also appeal the decision to his local Indepedent Valuation Appeals Committee, if he is not happy with the way his complaint is resolved.

      The SPSO are not an appeal body, but they can look at how the Council have conducted themselves and make recommendations (usually accepted).

      The Indepependent Valuation Appeal Committee can look at issues relating to Council Tax Liability and rule against the Council.

      Make it clear in the letter of complaint he is complaining to the Council about the decision to hold him liable for Council Tax for a property he has never lived at and also the fact that they still have not reversed the decision, even once they were provided with reasonable evidence.

      Make it clear this is obviously a case of mistaken identity and the Council should have taken appropriate steps once they were alerted to the problem and provided with evidence.

      Request a full refund of all funds taken and it is up to him whether he believes a further payment of compensation would be appropriate for the upset and worry this has caused him and list any hardship he may have suffered.

  15. Susan

    Hi I have a Arrestment on my wages I think it may be for council tax how can I stop this happening and maybe come up with payment plan for council tax? Is this possible?

    Many thanks

    1. Scottish Adviser

      Hi Susan

      You can contact the Lender and ask if they will lift the arrestment, but they have to agree to this and will want you to offer usually as much as they are arresting each week/month.

      The best place to start here is with the Sheriff Officers. Do not be surprised if they are reluctant to lift the Arrestment.

      Alternatively, you can look at formal solutions for lifting the Arrestment, but you will need to seek advice first and see if the options are suitable for you first.

      I have a page on How to Stop Wage Arrestments that will give you more information on these options.

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