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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 48739
Experience:  Qualified Employment Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
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I left my job in November and handed my 4 week notice in. I

Resolved Question:

I left my job in November and handed my 4 week notice in. I started my new job in December. I recently got a letter through from my old employer saying that they have paid me 3 months wages and want the money back. Is it my legal right to not pay them back as I have had no contract with this company and it was their fault for paying me wages?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 2 years ago.
Ben Jones : Hello, my name is ***** ***** it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. Did you know you were being overpaid?
Customer: i noticed the first payment and thought it was a months lying time the other two I didn't as I never checked my statements and it was among savings
Customer: what should I do? I can't afford to pay it all back in one
Customer: ???
Ben Jones :

If someone has genuinely been overpaid by their employer, then that is not money to which they are legally entitled and it should be repaid.

However, an employee may be able to use the legal defence of ‘estoppel’ to resist an employer's recovery of an overpayment. One of the main cases dealing with this is that of County Council of Avon v Howlett. The employee was a teacher who was paid more sick pay than he was entitled to. The teacher queried the overpayments with the employer but was assured they were correct. By the time the Council had realised their mistake, the teacher had spent most of that money. The Court of Appeal held that the defence of estoppel prevented the employer from recovering the whole sum of the overpayment.

The way estoppel operates is that if the following conditions are satisfied, then an employee should be able to use it as a defence to resist the recovery of an earlier overpayment:



  • The overpayments were made due to an error by the employer

  • The employee genuinely believed they were entitled to the money, or did not even realise that they were being overpaid

  • The employee has since 'changed their position', meaning they have spent the money in question. However, this does not mean just spending it on usual items of expenditure, such as bills, everyday spending, etc – you must have gone out of your way and changed your position, such as making additional purchases which you would not have done had you not received that money.


So whilst there is nothing stopping an employer from pursuing a claim to recover an overpayment, if the above conditions are satisfied then an employee could raise the defence of 'estoppel' and prevent the claim for proceeding any further. However if you cannot satisfy the above factors you will be liable to repay the sum and of you cannot repay it at once you will have to try an negotiate a repayment plan with the employer

Ben Jones :

I hope this clarifies your position? If you could please quickly let me know that would be great, as it is important for us to keep track of customer satisfaction. Thank you

Customer: The payment was made by a fault of the employer
Customer: Thank you for this information
Ben Jones :

you are welcome

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