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What are the Seven Types of Wage Arrestments in Scotland?

Sharon McDougall - Updated - 7th May 2024 - 2 minutes to read

The different types of Earning Arrestments in Scotland

Whilst the rules and terminology may differ in other parts of the United Kingdom, in Scotland there are the Seven Types of Wage Arrestments.

These seven types are Earning Arrestments, Conjoined Earning Arrestment, Direct Earning Attachments, Debtor Contribution Orders (Bankruptcy), Payment Instruction to Employers (Trust Deeds), Current Maintenance Arrestment and Deduction from Earnings Orders (DEOs).

Each of the seven types of wage or earnings arrestment in Scotland are different, in that they entail differing procedures, can be used for differing types of debt and the agencies that enforce them are also distinct.

If you’re in a situation whereby your wages have been arrested it’s crucial to establish the form of arrestment being used against you, as this will dictate how to resolve the matter.

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What are Earning Arrestments?

Earning Arrestments (or wage arrestments as they are also called) can be used to recover debts such as Council Tax arrears, business debts, landlord guarantees or credit union debts. They are also used to recover overpayments of benefits.

Specified legal amounts can be taken from a debtor’s daily, weekly or monthly wage in order to repay a debt by way of an Earning Arrestment.

For an Earning Arrestment to be put in place, a Charge for Payment has to be served first by Sheriff Officers and the debtor then has a two week (14 day) grace period in which to pay off the debt in full. If the debt is still unpaid after that 14 day period an Earning Arrestment can be set in place.

The total maximum amounts an employer can take from an employees wages to repay a debt by Earning Arrestment each day, week or month depends on what the individual is earning and is clearly specified by the government.

Wage arrestments can be challenged and can be halted by following the correct legal procedures, such as Debt Arrangement Schemes, Protected Trust Deeds and Time to Pay Orders.

What is a Conjoined Earning Arrestment?

In the case of a Conjoined Earning Arrestment this could be put in place by multiple (two or more) creditors seeking repayment of debt from an individual.

As opposed to being managed by a Sheriff Officer, Conjoined Earning Arrestments are managed by the Sheriff Clerks of Sheriff Courts. They exist to simultaneously serve the interests of creditors who might otherwise be in competition in the pursuit of debt recovery.

With a Conjoined Earning Arrestment two or more creditors can arrest wages together and the funds are then distributed to them from the employer via the Sheriff Clerk. The total amount being taken from the wage payment of the debtor does not increase, as the overall maximum permitted amount to be deducted remains the same as with a standard Earning Arrestment. The deducted funds are simply divided up between the creditors.

The legal procedures to challenge or halt Conjoined Earning Arrestments are in essence the same as with singular Earning Arrestments.

How do Direct Earning Attachments work?

Direct Earning Attachments are utilised to recoup overpayments of benefits by the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) and by Local Authorities.

The maximum amount that can be deducted per month or week at the Standard Rate is 20%, whilst there is a Higher Rate of 40% which is less commonly used.

No court order is needed for Direct Earning Arrestments to be set up, so they are not enforced by Sheriff Officers or Sheriff Clerks.

Direct Earning Arrestments have less priority than standard Earning Arrestments, so when an Earning Arrestment is in place it takes precedence over a Direct Earning Arrestment and a debtor cannot be left with less than 60% of their net earnings after the arrestment deductions.

What are Debtor Contribution Orders (Bankruptcy)?

Debtor Contribution Orders are used against individuals who have been made bankrupt and in the instance that the Accountant in Bankruptcy is of the opinion that the debtor can afford to make repayments.

If a bankrupt debtor will not willingly make debt repayments a Debtor Contribution Order could be served to their employer, instructing them to deduct a specified quantity that the Order states the debtor ought to be paying.

What is a Payment Instruction to Employers (Trust Deeds)?

Payment Instruction to Employers can be issued by Trustees in Protected Trust Deeds, instructing an employer to take contributions from a wage in order to make repayments to the Protected Trust Deed.

The permitted amount that can be taken is defined by what the Protected Trust Deed Trustee believes the debtor is able to afford. This amount can be disputed by the debtor and the Trustee must then review the case, with the Accountant in Bankruptcy ultimately able to interject if an agreement on the amount cannot be reached by the debtor and the Trustee of the Protected Trust Deed.

How are Current Maintenance Arrestments used?

Current Maintenance Arrestments are used if a Maintenance Order payment plan has been defaulted on.

Maintenance Orders may be for the support of a partner following an annulment or dissolution of a civil partnership or marriage. Maintenance Orders may also be for the maintenance of children.

Sheriff Officers execute Current Maintenance Arrestments and they apply to arrears on missed payments of a Maintenance Order. Ongoing Maintenance Order payments will remain due, even once a Current Maintenance Order is in place.

Debt Arrangement Schemes and Protected Trust Deed or Sequestration (Bankruptcy) can be used to stop Current Maintenance Arrestments.

Deduction from Earnings Orders (DEOs)

The CSA (Child Support Agency) or the CMS (Child Maintenance Service) can make Deduction from Earning Orders (DEO) against parents of children who do not cohabit with the children and who have stopped paying child maintenance, or are in arrears on child maintenance.

Deduction from Earnings Orders can be sent to the employers of parents in arrears on child maintenance in order to deduct a sum from their earnings. DEOs can comprise two elements, e.g. one calculated against the amount the parent should be paying in child maintenance and one relating to an amount to be paid towards arrears.

Again the CSA or the CMS must ensure that the parent the DEO is being used against is still left with at least 60% of their net earnings.

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Sharon McDougall


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