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Worried about an attachment of earnings?

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i The advice on this page applies to residents in England and Wales only.

What is an attachment of earnings order?

An attachment of earnings order instructs your employer to divert money directly from your wages to pay back a debt. Your employer sends the money to the court that made the order, and they then forward the money to your creditor.

An attachment of earnings is different to a ‘direct earnings attachment’ (DEA). A DEA can be made without you having to attend court when you’ve had benefit, tax or tax credits overpayments. Read our guide to direct earning attachments.

Are you worried about not being able to keep up with other essential payments after money has been taken from your wages? Contact us for free, confidential debt advice.

What happens when I get an attachment of earnings order?

If you receive notification in writing from the county court that a creditor has applied for an attachment of earnings order, it’s important you don’t ignore this letter.

How to respond to an attachment of earnings order notification:

  • The letter will include an N56 form for responding to the order. This document is also called the ‘statement of means’.
  • You need to complete this form and return it within eight calendar days, along with a copy of your most recent wage slip.
  • If you don’t reply you might get a summons to go to court for questioning. If you keep ignoring the court’s correspondence you could be prosecuted.
  • You can also apply to the court at a later date to suspend the attachment of earnings.

An attachment of earnings can only be ordered by the court if you’re employed by someone else, you’re taxed on a ‘pay as you earn’ (PAYE) basis or receiving occupational pension.

What if I get an attachment of earnings order notification because of council tax arrears or a magistrates' fine?

If you receive an attachment of earnings order notification for either of these two reasons, you won't have to complete a statement of means form. This is because the order will be set at a fixed percentage of your income.

How much will I pay on an attachment of earnings?

The amount taken by an attachment of earnings is set by the court. They will set a protected minimum amount of income which you must get each month. This is called the protected earnings rate. The attachment will only be taken from earnings above this amount.

Your creditor won’t be able to get an attachment of earnings order if your take-home pay is always below the protected earnings rate.

You must inform the creditor straight away if you stop working or change jobs.

Can you stop an attachment of earnings order?

You can ask for the order to be suspended by ticking a box on the form N56 you received with the order and give your reasons. This is called asking for a ‘suspended attachment of earnings order’.

If the court accepts your reasons for suspending the attachment of earnings order it will be on the condition that you make the agreed payments. You can make these directly to the creditor rather than the court.

When the order is suspended:

  • No money will be taken from your wages unless you fail to keep to the plan you’ve agreed with your creditor
  • Your employer will not be informed

How would an attachment of earnings affect my debt solution?

If you’re on a debt management plan (DMP), and you have an attachment of earnings order applied to your wages, please get in touch with your DMP provider. Having an attachment of earnings is likely to mean you have less disposable income.

Your DMP provider will need to review your budget and make sure your monthly payment is still realistic for you. They can also advise you if there are any steps you can take to stop the attachment of earnings order.

If the original debt was included in an individual voluntary arrangement (IVA), your creditor shouldn’t try to get an attachment of earnings order. Contact your IVA supervisor, who should ask them to stop. If you’re on an IVA and the debt wasn’t included, you’ll need to contact your supervisor so that they can discuss your options. You may be able to reduce your monthly payments to an affordable amount, if your creditors agree.

If you’ve gone bankrupt, you should contact your trustee. The trustee is usually the official receiver or Accountant in Bankruptcy administering your bankruptcy. They’ll be able to stop the attachment of earnings order or discuss your options with you.

If you’re in a debt relief order (DRO), check if the debt is included in your DRO. If it is, send a copy of your DRO to the creditor, who should stop the attachment of earnings order. If it isn’t, you’ll need to contact the Insolvency Service. Your DRO may be revoked if this additional debt takes your overall debt level above £20,000.

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CCJs and attachment of earnings orders

If a creditor has a County Court judgment against you and you haven’t paid the amount they told you to, this could result in the creditor applying for an attachment of earnings.>

If you ignore the letter you might get summoned to court for questioning, or even prosecuted if you continue to ignore it.

Learn more about dealing with County Court judgments (CCJs).

Council tax arrears and attachment of earnings

If you have council tax arrears, your local authority can contact your employer to set up an attachment of earnings order.

Up to two council tax debts can be taken from your wages at the same time. If you have arrears from two years’ worth of council tax, a larger amount might be taken from your wages.

Child maintenance arrears: deduction from earnings order

Child maintenance arrears to the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) can be taken straight from your wages using a deduction from earnings order.

This works differently, because the deduction is set by the CMS, rather than by the court.

They will set a ‘protected’ minimum amount of income which you must get each month, and the attachment will only be taken from earnings above this amount.

Paying criminal fines in instalments

If you get a criminal fine from a magistrates’ court, the court can order it to be taken straight from your wages. The amount taken from your wages will be a set percentage of your income – the more you earn, the higher the amount taken.

If you have a summons to attend court, it’s very important you go to the hearing and take a copy of your budget. You’ll need to give the court details of your income and expenses so they know the amount you can afford, and ask to pay the fine in instalments.

The court may still order an attachment of earnings, especially if you’ve missed payments to fines in the past.

"They were so kind, they listened patiently and helped me through the process" Alison, Kent

Help and advice

If you’ve been contacted by any creditor, local authority or the government about an attachment of earnings, take two minutes to answer a few simple questions, so we can understand the best way to help you.

Our expert advisors will put together a personal budget and give you tailored advice on your rights and how to deal with your situation.

You can also speak to your trade union rep, or the ACAS helpline. You may also want to check your employment contract to understand your employer’s policy towards a member of staff who receives an attachment of earnings order.