Attachment of earnings orders: Your complete guide

Image of author, Maxine McCreadie

Maxine McCreadie


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If you’re struggling with debt and you’re worried about being able to repay what you owe, chances are you’ve heard of an “Attachment of Earnings” order.

But what exactly is it? And how can you protect yourself from it? In this blog post, we’ll explore everything you need to know about attachment of earnings.

We’ll discuss what it is, how it works, and the various ways you can protect yourself if you’re worried about a creditor taking money directly from your paycheck.

What is an attachment of earnings order?

An attachment of earnings order (AEO) is a legal arrangement that allows a creditor to deduct money directly from a person’s income via their employer.

Earnings orders are often used to recover money owed in debts such as rent arrears, benefits overpayments, or any other situation where unpaid money is owed to a creditor.

Creditors can request an Attachment of Earnings order from the court if they can demonstrate that an individual has been unwilling to repay their debts by other means.

The court will then instruct the employer to deduct a certain amount of money at regular intervals from the debtor’s income.

An Attachment of Earnings is applied on top of any deductions already made by employers for taxes or pensions.

Once the money is collected, the employer is responsible for distributing the correct amount to the creditor each month.

When will an attachment of earnings be ordered?

Failure to repay a County Court Judgment (CCJ)

An attachment of earnings order will usually be ordered when the debtor has failed to make payments or respond to inquiries from the creditor in question, but can only be applied for if the individual has first been given a County Court Judgment (CCJ).

A CCJ is a court order that directs an individual to repay a debt over a set timeframe.

If the creditor has applied for a CCJ and the debtor has failed to repay their County Court Judgment debt, only then can they apply for an attachment of earnings.

This process of applying for an attachment of earnings is normally quite fast, so it’s important for debtors to act quickly and ensure that payments are made on time, or to contact the creditor if they cannot meet their obligations.

If a court grants the AEO, it will order the debtor’s employer to make deductions from the debtor’s wages and pay these directly to the deducing party.

Consolidated attachment of earnings order

If you have multiple county court judgments (CCJs) and an attachment of earnings order, a consolidated attachment of earnings order makes managing all your payments easier.

Through this process one payment is taken from your pay check each month by your employer before being sent to the court; then it’s divided up and distributed accordingly among all creditors on behalf of you.

Consolidating these orders into one monthly payment simplifies things in comparison to making separate payments for different debts.

What happens when you receive an attachment of earnings order?

There is a two-step process for anyone who receives an Attachment of Earnings order.

Written notice from county court

You will receive written notice of any Attachment of Earnings order taken against you, in the form of a letter through the post.

The letter will normally include information about the original creditor, court details, and information about how to respond to the AEO.

It’s crucial that you don’t ignore this letter if you receive one.

Respond to earnings order

In the letter you will find an N56 form, also known as a ‘statement of means’, which must be completed and sent back to the county court within eight days, along with your most recent wage slip.

If no response is received, you may receive a court summons for questioning.

An ignored court correspondence could potentially lead to prosecution so it’s important that all steps are taken in order to avoid this outcome.

You can apply at a later date if desired for suspension of earnings attachment through the court process.

What kind of debts can result in an attachment of earnings?

AEOs are commonly used to collect debts such as:

  • Council tax arrears
  • Child maintenance arrears
  • Criminal fines from a magistrates’ court.

However, there are other types of debt that can be collected using an AEO, including rent arrears, gas and electric bill arrears, non-molestation obligations set by the family court or High Court, and certain commercial debts.

All debts must meet certain criteria in order to qualify for collection via an AEO.

How long does an attachment of earnings order last?

A consistent Attachment of Earnings Order will be enforced until the entire debt is reimbursed.

Your employer – current or future – will deduct a portion from your wages to pay off what remains.

If you have an Administration Order that lasts no more than three years attached along with it, then you may end this order without being obligated to fully satisfy creditors and companies.

How much will I pay?

Under an AEO, money will only be deducted from your take-home pay.

The amount you will pay back each payday is decided by taking into account your level of income.

To help the court decide how much you should pay, a form must be filled out declaring your finances.

This will then be sent to the court, who will analyse your finances and determine appropriate repayment amounts.

Ultimately, all cases are different so results may vary when calculating how much should be paid for every payment period.

Protected earnings rate

The protected earnings rate is an important safety net for anyone who is subject to an Attachment of Earnings Order (AEO).

This rate works as a bulwark to ensure that employees have financial security during periods where they are subject to an AEO.

Essentially, 60% of the employee’s total net earnings are considered ‘protected’, meaning an order cannot be enforced to collect debts if it would leave the debtor with less than 60% of their total net earnings each month.

There are also various types of income that are exempt from AEOs, including statutory maternity pay, certain pensions, and money received from the Government (i.e. benefits).

Can you stop an attachment of earnings order?

Ask for the order to be suspended

It is possible to ask that an attachment of earnings order be stopped.

You can submit a request by ticking a box on the N56 form, which is known as requesting a suspended attachment of earnings order.

You will need to have good reason to ask for a suspended order, as your request needs to be granted by a county or district judge.

The two main reasons cited for a suspended order are:

  • The attachment of earnings will cause you financial hardship, or
  • Receiving an earnings order (which your employers will automatically be informed of) could cause you to lose your job

What happens if I ignore an AEO?

If a debtor ignores or fails to comply with an AEO, they can face serious legal consequences.

The court reserves the right to issue a court appearance and summons if it determines that such measures are necessary.

Not responding to court appearances or court summons could prompt further legal action including but not limited to court fines, a visit by a court officer, and imprisonment depending on the severity of the case. You will also be liable for any associated court fees.

That’s why it’s important for you to be aware of all your rights under UK law and ensure you comply with any court orders you are subject to.

Will an attachment of earnings affect my credit score?

Yes, an attachment of earnings orders will likely have a negative effect on your credit score.

It is important to understand that an attachment of earnings order can be viewed negatively by future lenders and may set you back when it comes to accessing credit, such as applying for a loan or mortgage.

The best way to avoid damage to your credit score is to repay your debts in full if you can afford to, or reach out to your creditors in order to set up a gradual payment plan.

Where can I get advice on dealing with council tax arrears and other debts?

If you’re struggling to manage your debts, it’s always a good idea to get impartial, reliable advice and support.

IVA Plan is a reputable debt solution provider, offering personalised advice from trained debt advisors.

Our team of advisors work with clients to deal with their debts, improve their personal budget, and decide on the best course of action for their individual needs.

Getting touch with us is easy – simply submit an enquiry online today to discover how IVA Plan can help you.