Earning Arrestments and FAQS

What is an Earnings Arrestment?

In Scotland, an earnings arrestment, (also known as a wage arrestment), is a form of diligence, which is a legal term for procedures that are used to recover debts.

What an Earnings Arrestment does, is it allows your creditors, the people you owe money to, to recover that money 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 can sometimes be possible to get an Earnings Arrestment stopped before the debt is repaid in full. To find out more about this see How do you Stop an Earnings Arrestment?

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 you had with them 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.

More on Earning Arrestments...

Can you have more than one Wage 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. Return to the Earning Arrestment Homepage.

Can a Wage Arrestment 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.

Return to the Earning Arrestment Homepage.




  1. Dorothy

    We have an earnings arrestment on my partner’s wages, and I know that his employer is taking a proportion of his money every month for this, but I’ve discovered that these haven’t been passed on to the creditor as my partner’s employer only usually does this twice a year, or perhaps even annually. I can’t see this as right, as the money that’s being taken should be forwarded so that the principal sum is reduced and the interest charged is less each month. This doesn’t seem right

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi Dorothy.

      You are correct, this is not correct.

      What section 47 (1) of the Debtors (Scotland) Act 1987 states is:

      “Subject to section 69 of this Act, an earnings arrestment shall have the effect of requiring the employer of a debtor, while the arrestment is in effect, to deduct a sum calculated in accordance with section 49 of this Act from the debtor’s net earnings on every pay-day and, as soon as is reasonably practicable, to pay any sum so deducted to the creditor.”

      Obviously there may be a reasonable delay.

      Two thoughts:

      First, how to approach the employer? Is he approachable? If not another option may be to speak with the Sheriff Officers. As officers of the Court they can chase him up.

      Or alternatively, have you thought about seeing if you can get the Earning Arrestment lifted. One way to do this is through the Debt Arrangement Scheme. That will not only stop the Earning Arrestment, therefore, avoiding causing the employer grief; but will also freeze all interest and charges and protect your partner from other enforcement procedures like Bank Arrestments.

      You can speak to your Local Authority Money Advice Service or Citizen Advice Bureau about the Debt Arrangement Scheme. More about it is available here.

  2. Richard

    I’ve Just come to the end of a wages arrestment after 2 months. It’s great to have more money in my pocket.

    I have now received a letter asking for more money saying this is for the interest.

    Is this correct? Can they demand more money?

    I thought interest and costs were all in the arrestment order and once that was payed I would be done

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi Richard

      The relevant law that deals with this matter is section 48(1) of the Debtors (Scotland) Act 1987.

      It states that what the earning arrestment can recover is the:

      Original debt;
      Their legal expenses; and
      Any interest owed at the date of service of the earning assessment.

      Normally the rate of interest should be 8% per annum (unless the Court specifies a higher amount), applied on a daily basis. I can’t imagine much could have built up over 2 months.

      However, legally they can recover that interest and you probably don’t want another wage arrestment or bank arrestment, as that will have additional costs for you.

      You can request they provide you with a statement of account, showing what was owed and what has been paid and what has been added in charges and interest.

  3. L


    I am a payroll assistant and I have received a Schedule of Arrestment in Execution for a labour only subcontractor who currently works for my employer.

    I phoned Stirling Park to ask them how to deduct and they advised that this was a one time arrestment and I should arrest anything owed to the employee by us.

    Does this mean his entire net wage? I wasnt aware I could leave the employee with nothing. He only makes a certain amount a week and the arrestment is for over a thousand pounds, so would need to arrest his wage for a good 4 weeks.

    Many thanks for any help.

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi L

      Yes what Stirling Park is telling you appears to be correct, from what you are telling me.

      Arrestments in Execution, or Actions of Arrestment and Furthcoming, as they are properly known, are also usually referred to as Bank Arrestments, as Arrestments in Execution are most commonly used to arrest bank accounts.

      However, they can be used to arrest funds held by any third party.

      They cannot be used to arrest earnings for employees, as Earning Arrestments must be used for this.

      As the person’s money that is being arrested is not an employee, the Sheriff Officers will take the view the money you are due to pay them are not earnings.

      This type of use of Arrestments in Execution is very harsh for a number of reasons.

      If the person was an employee, the first £529.90 would be protected and even after that the Sheriff Officers would get only a % (but, equally it would be continuing, whereas this is a one off arrestment, but can be executed every month until the debt is paid off).

      If it was an Arrestment of funds in a bank account, the first £529.90 would also be protected, but they would get everything else after that up until the amount owed was paid in full.

      However, as you are not a bank, what is called the Protected Minimum Balance in Bank Arrestments doesn’t apply.

      So, if I were in your position I would take your instructions from the Sheriff Officers, as they are Officers of the Sheriff Court and act with its authority. Also if you release the funds your employer can be held liable.

      You also need to notify the Sheriff Officers formally within three weeks how much they have arrested (they should advise you on this and supply you with the form) and also the sub-contractor at the same time.

      If you are in any doubt about anything contact your local Sheriff Court and ask to speak to the Sheriff Clerk who may be able to help.

      Even if something is wrong, that way you have some protection in that you can say you just followed the Court Officers instructions.

      You also shouldn’t hand the money over to the Sheriff Officers immediately, until the sub-contractor signs a mandate authorising you to do so, or the Court orders you to or 14 weeks passes. Again ask the Sheriff Officers or Clerk about this or seek your own legal advice. This is to allow the Sub-contractor time to object. You should, however, keep the funds ring fenced and safe. Remember the responsibility for handing it over now is your employers.

      Now regarding the Sub-contractor, he can object. He may argue the arrestment is unduly harsh (there is possibly a very strong argument for him to do this as he may be left with nothing), or he may argue the arrestment is not competent (this is more complex)

      He may argue for example at the time the arrestment was executed the money was not due to him from you. So for example, if he is contractually due to be paid on the 25th and the arrestment was made on the 23rd, then there may be an argument legally the arrestment failed as the money was not due (I am speculating as I don’t know your contractual arrangements).

      Alternatively, he may argue that the funds arrested were actually earnings, although you say they weren’t, he may argue that is how they should be treated and this is for the Sheriff to decide.

      I would say if you want to keep your employer correct, do what the Sheriff Officers instruct you and maybe speak with the Sheriff Clerk and ask for instructions.

      However, speak with your sub-contractor and tell him he nèeds to speak with his local Citizen Advice Bureau or Local Authority Money Advice Agency, as a matter of urgency, as there are time limits on some of the actions I mentioned above and as you will see from my page on challenging bank arrestments, there are arguments and procedures applicable there that he can use too.

      1. Scottish Adviser Post author

        Just a thought L.

        If your sub-contractor needs funds quickly and your prepared to help him, he could ask the Sheriff Officers only to take what they would have got if they had made an Earning Arrestment.

        In return he would agree to release those funds to them immediately, if they agree to release his part of the funds to him immediately.

        He could then offer to allow you to deduct from his net earnings each month what they would get in an earning arrestment and pay that to them until the debt was paid.

        This would be a completely voluntary arrangement between you, your sub-contractor and the Sheriff Officers.

        If they don’t agree, he could say he won’t release the funds and will be challenging the arrestment.

        This is not to say that if he did not do this and challenged the arrestment he wouldn’t succeed, but that may take time. It’s for him to decide.

        I would still advise him to seek advice regardless.

  4. Laura


    I have had an wage arrestment in place for many years by Scot and Co for council tax.

    I can’t afford to pay council tax on top of the arrested payment each month so cannot see myself getting clear of the debt as more is added on each year.

    I have now been sent a letter by my employer saying that a benefits over payment will also now be collected from my pay each month.

    I am only just keeping my head above water and any more money taken from my wages will leave me short every month.

    What should I do?

    Please help me?

    I can’t take much more. I would be as well giving up work but I’m trying my best to keep paying everything.

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi Laura

      Thank you for coming on.

      What you are describing is a common problem that arises when people have a wage arrestment executed.

      All the money you are paying is going to your Council Tax Arrears, meanwhile your current Council Tax is going unpaid and is being added to your arrears.

      It is a vicious circle and everytime a Summary Warrant is issued, a 10% surcharge is added to your bill.

      It now sounds like the situation is about to be made worse by a Direct Earning Attachment (DEAs) being applied for a benefit overpayment.

      Unfortunately, this operates separately to the wage arrestment. This means they can take more money from your wages then is currently being taken.

      The amount they can take can also vary, but can be as much as 20% of your net earnings after tax and national insurance are deducted. In certain circumstances it can be as much as 40%, but only if the overpayment arose from fraud.

      Normally, DEAs are only applied for if you are not in receipt of a benefit that the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) can take deductions from and they have not been able to agree a repayment plan with you (or if you have had one, you stopped paying it).

      You, however, do have options, so I would not encourage you to stop working yet. This will only make your situation worse.

      What I would suggest as a course of action is, therefore:

      1) Contact DWP Debt Management and see if they will enter a voluntary repayment plan with you or agree to a fixed amount each month that you can afford to be deducted from your earnings.

      You can contact them on 0800 916 0647. Explain you already have an earning arrestment and the DEA will cause you severe hardship. They do have the power to be flexible.

      2) Get a full benefit check done and make sure you are in receipt of all the benefits that you are entitled to. This includes single person discounts for Council Tax, if you live on your own. You can do your own benefit check online here.

      3) Get free money advice and consider all your options. This includes looking at, amongst other options, the Debt Arrangement Scheme.

      This will involve doing an income and expenditure with a money adviser and seeing what you can afford to pay towards your debts, but only after you have been left enough to pay all your essential outgoings, including your current Council Tax.

      This should prevent you getting into further debt. 

      They will then offer that to your creditors and if it is accepted, the wage arrestment for Council Tax has to stop.

      The DWP also have a policy of ceasing all recovery action, including DEAs once a Debt Payment Programme under the Debt Arrangement Scheme has been approved.

      You would then just make one payment per month to a Payment Distributor, who would pay the people you owe money to.

      In terms of where to get free money advice, you can contact your local Citizen Advice Bureau or contact your local Council and ask them where you can get free money advice in your area. They may provide it themselves or will fund an advice agency in your area to do it.

      I hope this helps. 

      Even if the Debt Arrangement Scheme is not suitable for you, there are other options available.

      If I can be of further help please don’t hesitate to ask.

    2. Laura

      Hello Alan,

      Thank you very much for replying to my questions.

      As you advised I have contacted DWP debt management and they have agreed to a voluntary repayment plan of £15 per month until the debt is cleared.

      I’m extremely relieved and can relax a little bit it has left me wondering if I can do anything to stop the council tax earnings arrestment and make an arrangement to pay a monthly payment towards the arrears and pay the current council tax bill as well, but I am doubtful that this will be accepted.

      I do remember trying to arrange this many years ago but Scot and Co wouldn’t even discuss it with me and I was told I have to pay the current year and the earnings arrestment which is financially impossible for me to do.

      I do want to pay my debt and don’t really want to enter into a trust deed etc but I wonder if I would be better off long term doing so.

      Kind regards


      1. Scottish Adviser Post author

        Hi Laura

        That is great news! I am really happy you got things sorted with the DWP.

        In terms of Council Tax, this is more difficult, as generally they won’t lift the arrestment. However, the situation you are in, as I said, is a vicious cycle and not a long term solution.

        I would caution you against a Trust Deed, as these are often over promoted as a solution, when there are often better ones. They have their place, but are not the panacea they are often made out to be.

        There is two other ways to lift am earning arrestment for Council Tax. One is the Debt Arrangement Scheme, which I mentioned in my other post and is not a type of insolvency.

        The other is a Time to Pay, which you apply to the Court for. Both you can do for free by going through your local advice agency.

        Time to Pays are not as common these days, as people usually have multiple debts and for that reason the Debt Arrangement Scheme is often more effective.

        However, applying for a Time to Pay may be a good negotiating tactic, as if it is backed by a good income and expenditure produced by a money adviser, the Council may agree to it and lift the arrestment without it going to Court.

        A strong argument could be made to a sheriff that it is necessary as the Wage Arrestment is leaving you without sufficient income to pay your current Council Tax.

        I would suggest this may be the strongest card you could play, or now that you have some breathing space regarding the DEA, look into the Debt Arrangement Scheme, as you could put all your debts into it and just make one affordable payment each month.

  5. Sam


    Can Creditors like Scottish Power or Black Horse arrest your wages?

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi Sam,

      Yes creditors like Black Horse and Scottish Power can arrest your wages, but first they need to take you to court and get a court Order.

      Once they have the Court Order they must give you 14 days in case you want to appeal against it, but then they can arrest your wages.

      They do need to serve a Charge for Payment first.

      Scottish Power, however, you may find, where they are your current provider of gas or electricity, are more likely to put in a pre-payment meter and recover the debt that way.

      If you are worried about your wages being arrested or need help with your debts, I recommend seeking advice from a free sector money adviser, such as those provided by Citizen Advice Bureaux or Local Authorities.

      Please do not hesitate to ask if I can be of any further assistance.

  6. Jordan


    Can money be took out of your business account when you are self employed?


    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi Jordan

      This is actually an interesting question and I may not be able to give you a definitive answer, but I will do my best.

      The starting point is both business and personal accounts can be arrested.

      If it’s a personal account, the first £494.10 is protected. This the Protected Minimum Balance (PMB). From the 6th April 2019 this increases to £529.90.

      If it is a business account there is no PMB, so they can take the full amount owed.

      Now if you are self-employed as a sole trader and say owe income tax, they can arrest your personal account,as income tax is a debt personal to you.

      If you trade under a separate name, and have an account under that trading name, you effectively own the money in that account as you are a sole trader.

      As it is your account it can be arrested for your debts.

      Basically as a sole trader your business has no separate legal identity, it is just you trading under a different name. This would be different if your business was a partnership or a limited company, as these are separate legal entities in Scots Law, so they couldn’t have funds in their acccounts arrested for your personal debts.

      They can only have funds arrested for debts owed by themselves as businesses.

      So, in theory if your a sole trader and have a debt owed by you, a business account can be arrested for your debts, as it is your personal business property.

      However, and this is where I am not totally sure of the answer. If your business account is in the name of say, Cleaner Windows, and the Sheriff Officers execute an arrestment for accounts in your personal name, would the bank know to arrest the account of Cleaner Windows?

      I suspect not, although I may be wrong.

      What I suggest might need to happen is the arrestment would need to be worded as against you (but, trading as Cleaner Windows); or if the arrestment just names you, if the account was in your name (trading as Cleaner Windows) it would work.

      I think it’s more a practical point than a legal one, as ultimately if you are a sole trader and have a business account, the money in the account is your personal property, so it can be arrested for your personal debts.

      Sorry I cannot give you more clarity than that, however, if you do need business debt advice you can call the Business Debtline who can give you free, confidential advice.

      You can find them here.

  7. Scottish Adviser Post author

    Hi Dale

    Thank you for your enquiry.

    Essentially you can offer anything, however, Scott & Co are not obliged to accept your offer.

    You don’t say whether the £50 per month would greater than the 19%. If it was and there was a reason why you wanted to offer more, rather than just let the Earning Arrestment run, they may accept your offer providing you understand if you miss a payment they would revert back to the earning arrestment.

    The only other way to stop the Earnings Arrestment, other than using the Debt Arrangement Scheme or a Protected Trust Deed or bankruptcy, where your debt situation is quite severe, is to apply for a Time to Pay Order. When making one of these orders, the Sheriff cab make a order recalling the Arrestment at the same time.

  8. John


    Can an earnings arrestment or a freeze on my bank account be applied to benefits?

    Such as carers allowance?

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi John

      An Earning Arrestment can’t affect your Carers Allowance as Carers Allowance is not classed as earnings. As it is paid to you by the Secretary of State, it cannot be arrested in her hands.

      Your bank account could be arrested, however, if there is more than £494.01 in it at any point.

      The general rule is benefits cannot be arrested; however, in practice the bank will freeze any funds in the account over £494.01, regardless of the source of the funds and transfer them to the Sheriff Officers after 14 weeks unless they receive instructions from them or the Court not to.

      If the only funds in the account are benefits it is possible to argue they need to be released because the arrestment is incompetent; however, if they have been mixed in with wages, this argument is not likely to succeed, but another one may, such as the arrestment is unduly harsh.

      This is a complex argument and I cover it my article on how to challenge bank arrestments. Your local advice agency can help you with this if it happens.

      However, if you think it may happen, it may be worth while thinking about getting all your benefits paid into one account and other income, such as wages, into another.

      I would suggest if it hasn’t happened, but you think it may, the best thing to do is speak to your local money advice agency. It may be a Statutory Moratorium may be appropriate, which gives you 6 week protection.

      If I can help any further, let me know.

  9. Lorraine

    I have just been dismissed on the grounds of ill health and i’m due 8 weeks notice pay as well as any outstanding holiday pay, does holiday pay get deducted separately?

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi Lorraine

      I am sorry you have been let go. As it is on the grounds of ill health, can I suggest you get a full benefit check from your local advice agency, just in case there are benefits you are entitled to but not receiving. You can also see my page on benefit checks.

      Regarding your wages, if it is all being paid at the same time, it will be deducted at the same time. However, how the calculation is carried out for your holiday pay is different.

      So, how you calculate it for your normal earnings is using the Earning Arrestment Tables.

      Then for your holiday pay, you treat this separately. so if it was three weeks holiday pay you would use the weekly tables.If it was three weeks and two days, you would use the weekly tables for the three weeks and then the daily tables for the daily amount

      Can I also suggest that if you are due a lump sum payment, you really want to get advice, as the sheriff officers could also apply for a Bank Arrestment if they know a lump sum will be going into your account, but getting advice and applying for a Statutory Moratorium could protect you.
      You can find your local Citizen Advice Bureau here, or contact your local council and ask who can help you with debt and benefit advice.

      1. Lorraine

        Thank you very much for your advice.

  10. Danielle

    Do they need to notify you and ask for your employers details before an arrestment is made ?

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi Danielle

      Thanks for coming on.

      No they don’t need to ask for your employer’s details. They obviously need it, but they often get this information as you have previously told them, possibly when applying for credit or if you previously entered a repayment plan with them and then missed a payment.
      They do need to have served you a Charge for Payment and a Debt Advice and Information Pack, or they cannot do a wage arrestment.
      They don’t need to do any more than than that.
      If you are worried about an Earning arrestment, you could speak to an adviser about putting on a Statutory Moratorium which gives you 6 weeks protection to explore all your options for dealing with your debts. This could include using the Debt Arrangement Scheme which not only prevents an Earning arrestment being used, but also lifts them where they have already been executed.

  11. Ann

    If you receive an earning arrestment notification and it has the wrong employer details, can they enforce this or do that have to send out another notification with the correct information?

    If the person at the old firm give them information is this a breach of GDPR?

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi Ann

      The legislation does not say the Earning Arrestment Schedule (Form 30) has to have the correct employers name in it, but I think we can take that as a given.

      The Schedule is served on the employer under the Debtors (Scotland) Act 1987, so it is a legal document. It should, therefore, be properly drafted and precise as to who it is addressed to, as it is effectively a legal instruction and does have consequences. Like all legal instructions, it should contain certainty.

      Take for example the situation, where the employer does not comply with the Earning Arrestment Schedule, they can be held liable for the sums they should have taken if it is found they were wrong not to have complied with it.

      Equally, if they deduct sums from an employee’s wages that they had no legal authority to take, they could face an action from the employee for making illegal deductions from their wages in an employment tribunal.

      If I was an employer and received such a notification and it was not properly addressed to me I would be raising the matter with the Sheriff Officers themselves. They should serve a properly addressed schedule. If they didn’t I would ask they properly address it. I cannot imagine they would refuse to.

      If they did refuse, I would speak to the Society of Sheriff Officers and Messenger at Arms or the Sheriff Clerk at the local Sheriff Court.

      In terms of whether an employer would be in breach of GDPR by notifying a creditor or Sheriff Officers of their previous employee’s new place of work, they would not as there is a legal requirement on them to do so under section 70A (5) of the 1987 Act, if there was a previous earning arrestment in place. However, they must also notify their previous employee that they have passed the information on.

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