UK Employment Law
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Hello, my name is Ben and it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today.Before proceeding please note that as I am a practising solicitor, I am often in and out of meetings, travelling between clients or even at court when I pick your question up. This may even occur at weekends. Therefore, I apologise in advance but there may be a delay in getting back to you and providing my advice. Please be patient and I will respond as soon as I can. You do not have to wait here and you will receive an email when I have responded. For now please let me know what your specific question is?
Thank you for your patience. The starting point is that if you have been overpaid by your employer, then that is not money to which you are legally entitled and it should be repaid.
However, an employee may be able to use the defence of ‘estoppel’ to resist an employer's recovery of an overpayment on grounds of unfairness. For example, in the case of County Council of Avon v Howlett, a teacher was paid more sick pay than he was entitled to. The teacher queried the overpayments but was told 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 council from recovering the whole sum of the overpayment.
Case law has evolved somewhat since then, but it has become an acceptable principle that 'estoppel' can apply if the following conditions are met:
So whilst the employer is justified in pursuing the money at this stage, there are ways of defending such a claim. However, that will only potentially be possible if the above conditions are made and if the employee was aware they were being overpaid and did nothing to rectify that, then it is unlikely there will be a defence.
Please let me know if this has answered your query or if you need me to clarify anything else for you in relation to this?
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