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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 66676
Experience:  Qualified Solicitor
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I retired in 2017 and my former employer has contacted me

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I retired in 2017 and my former employer has contacted me saying that I was overpaid by several thousand pounds and want their money back. Do I really have to pay this?
JA: Have you discussed this with a manager or HR? Or with a lawyer?
Customer: No, I wanted to know first if I have to comply.
JA: What is your employment status? Are you an employee, freelancer, consultant or contractor? Do you belong to a union?
Customer: I am now retired but my employer was NOMS (National Offender Management Service)
JA: Anything else you want the Lawyer to know before I connect you?
Customer: They want to know my partner's income as well as mine - can they make her liable too? We don't have the money unless we sell our house.

Hello, I’m Ben, a UK lawyer and will be dealing with your case today. Firstly, I need to ask some initial questions to determine the legal position.

Were you aware that you were being overpaid and also, do they want you to pay it back as a single payment?

Customer: replied 6 months ago.
No, I was not aware when they overpaid me. It was a backdated lump payment and I did not know how much was due to me
They want me to fill in a form giving both my financial details, which is fine, but also my partner's financial details, which is not ok.
Customer: replied 6 months ago.
No. I cannot pay £44. Please continue by text.
Customer: replied 6 months ago.
I thought this was CAB and was not expecting to pay anything.

Thank you and no problem re the phone call. I will get back to you with my answer as soon as I can, which will be at some point today. The system will notify you when this happens. Please do not reply in the meantime as this may unnecessarily delay my response. Many thanks.

Ben Jones and 5 other Law Specialists are ready to help you

Many thanks for your patience. If someone has genuinely been overpaid at work, the employer may rely on the common law remedy of restitution based on a mistake of law or fact to recover the overpayment in the civil courts. Restitution attempts to prevent the unjust enrichment of the worker at the expense of the employer.

If a claim for recovery is made by the employer, the employee may be able to use the legal defence of ‘estoppel’ to resist it. The case of County Council of Avon v Howlett dealt with this issue and identified three conditions that must be met for estoppel to succeed:

{C}· The overpayments were made due to an error by the employer

{C}· The employee genuinely believed they were entitled to the money, or did not even realise that they were being overpaid. It would not include turning a blind eye when they knew they were being overpaid

{C}· 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 rent, mortgage, bills, everyday spending, etc – there must have been a significant, precise or substantial change of position.

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' in court and potentially resist the employer’s claim.