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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 48202
Experience:  Qualified Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
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Hi, How are you? I have worked for Royal mail for 30 years

Resolved Question:

Hi,
How are you? I have worked for Royal mail for 30 years and last year had a fall and ended up having six months off. On my return to work we were in the midst of our mail centre closing and moving to a new one.My wage had gone down to half pay at (sick pay at pension rate)so I was informed that it would return to normal which it did yet I was still receiving the sick pay too...I informed my old line manager and wages which they both said it would be sorted but for ten months I have still had the sick pay on top of my wage!
I have now been informed that they are very sorry it was their mistake but I owe them over 8 thousand!!! Do I have any rights as it wasn't my mistake and I did inform them yet it didn't get cancelled? I do feel I should pay them back but by law with them admitting it was their fault do I have to pay the full amount back?
Thankyou for your time,regards XXXXX XXXXX
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 3 years ago.

Ben Jones :

Hello, my name is XXXXX XXXXX it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. I presume you knew at the time that you were being paid more than what you were due?

Customer:

Yes I was aware but for the first few weeks I thought it would stop as I had informed my line manager and wages yet it continued and I must say out of hand!

Ben Jones :

ok thanks let me get my response ready please

Customer:

most appreciated I will wait for your response

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. In fact an employer can make deductions from your salary for past overpayments without seeking your consent first.


 


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 deducting these overpayments from your wages whilst you are still employed by them or pursuing a claim to recover them once you have left, if the above conditions are satisfied then an employee could raise the defence of 'estoppel' and prevent the claim for proceeding any further. But of course you must be able to show that you satisfy the above criteria for that to succeed. If you cannot do so, you may at least try and negotiate a reasonable repayment plan with the employer so that you are not left in a poor financial position as a result.

Customer:

Got that thankyou I guess I need to negotiate about a repayment plan I have paid off some debts with the money and have nothing of the money paid to me left would you cite the above case to my employer if it were you?

Ben Jones :

there is no harm in raising it with them - they may not be that clued up as to the specific requirements so the worst is that they refuse to accept it as a valid argument, it won't make things worse off than they already may be

Customer:

Then that is the plan I will raise the issue as stated and see where it takes me! Thankyou for your time!

Ben Jones :

You are most welcome, all the best

Customer:

you too thankyou

Ben Jones :

thanks

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