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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 48161
Experience:  Qualified Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
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i am a professional social worker and have been working for

Resolved Question:

i am a professional social worker and have been working for a London Borough. I resigned from my job in December 2013 to go travelling. Despite giving my resignation in writing my (previous) employer has mistakenly continued to pay me. They have sent me an invoice for the overpayment. I have recently returned to the UK and am now employed by a different London Borough with a similar job. Do i legally have to repay the money?
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 3 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:

no i was abroad

Ben Jones :

How much did they overpay you by?

Customer:

Ben, did you receive my reply?

Ben Jones :

Only the one about you being abroad, not to my next question though

Ben Jones :

Hi are you getting my posts above?

Customer:

Ben, I did nor receive your reply at the time. I have now logged on again and received it. They have overpaid me by approximately £10,000.00 but I haven't checked the invoice that they have sent me as yet.

Ben Jones :

Thank you. 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.


 

Customer:

Thank you for your advice

Ben Jones :

you are welcome

Customer:

i can't seem to click the box "excellent service"?

Ben Jones :

Apologies for that, there is a bug we get sometimes, we can process it manually later, thank you

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