An Earnings Arrestment Order (EAO), also known as a Wage Arrestment Order, is a form of ‘diligence’ that can be taken against you by a creditor. Diligence procedures are permitted once the creditor has been granted an appropriate court order, and earnings arrestment is just one of several measures they can take. This process is known as an Attachment of Earnings Order in England, Northern Island and Wales.
It will have been preceded by various attempts to collect the debt, including sending you a charge for payment. Earnings arrestment is a debt enforcement method often used by local councils to recover Council Tax arrears, but there are strict conditions as to how much they can take out of your pay.
Before enforcing a debt in this way, your creditor must send you a charge for payment unless you are being pursued for an unpaid court fine, in which case this is not needed.
For the arrestment order to be legitimate, your creditor must also arrange for a Debt Advice and Information Package (DAIP) to be sent from the Accountant in Bankruptcy, no less than 12 weeks before serving the order.
The 14-day charge for payment is a formal demand to pay the debt, and the amount stated will include interest plus potentially other fees – in relation to sheriff officer services, for example. It’s advisable to carefully check the charge for payment and make sure all the details are correct, and also to read through the Debt Advice and Information Pack.
The arrestment or wage order should be served by a sheriff officer, usually by recorded delivery direct to your employer. It will include instructions on how to calculate payments, along with the current deduction tables.
There are safeguards in place to ensure that deductions are reasonable, and the possibility that more than one creditor will issue an earnings or wage arrestment is also taken into account. A formula is used to decide on how much each creditor receives, in cases where more than one arrestment has been served.
The amount deducted depends on how much you earn, and how often you are paid. A percentage of net earnings is used, but if you earn below the lowest level in the calculation tables there is no payment to make.
Earnings include commission, bonuses, overtime and statutory sick pay, as well as your basic net wage. Deductions continue until the debt is repaid in full, and if you change your job the order moves with you.
Some employers include a clause in their employment contracts that being in debt is a disciplinary matter, and there may be a risk that you will lose your job. This is often the case with employers in the finance industry, the police force, and prison service.
It’s worthwhile checking your contract of employment just to be sure, but you may find that your employer is simply disgruntled because of the extra work involved.
If you act quickly on receipt of the charge for payment, you may be able to negotiate a new payment plan with your creditor before the earnings arrestment comes into force. You should obtain professional advice in this situation, which is why your creditor is obliged to send you a Debt Advice and Information Package.
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