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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
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The Royal Air Force say that my son was overpaid in salary

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The Royal Air Force say that my son was overpaid in salary from 2005 until October 2008 . Is there a statute of limitations in UK law that means he does not have to pay this money back? The error was not his fault.
Hello, my name is ***** ***** it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. can you tell how this overpayment come about and did you son notice this overpayment please.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
He applied for and was granted accelerated incremental progression in accordance with joint service publication. This was signed off by 3 people including his boss and a member of HR. It has subsequently been concluded by MoD that the JSP was wrongly interpretated by the people signing the application off. He has been ordered to pay back in excess of £1300.
Thank you for your response, which I will now review. I will get back to you as soon as possible. Please do not respond to this message as it will just push your question to the back of the queue and you may experience unnecessary delays. Thank you
Many thanks for your patience. 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 terms of statute of limitations there is a 6 year limitation period within which the paying party can pursue a claim, starting from when the money was last paid out. That is unless the debtor has either acknowledged the debt since then or made a repayment towards it, in which case the limitation period would run from either of these happened.
Even if they manage to make a claim against him, a person 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 someone 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.
If the above conditions are satisfied then an employee could raise the defence of 'estoppel' and prevent the claim for proceeding any further. This is in addition to any argument that the claim is now out of time.
I hope this has answered your query. Please take a second to leave a positive rating, or if you need me to clarify anything before you go - please get back to me and I will assist further as best as I can. Thank you
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