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My previous employer (UK civil service) paid me my full monthly salary the month I left. The month I left (August 2017) I did around 5 days of work due to how my fixed contract work (11 months starting 5/09/16) and annual leave. Realistically they should have paid me for just those days I worked but I assume there was a clerical mishap.

It didn't really click with me this was the case till months after and assumed there being no contact it didn't matter. Today I received a letter stating all this and that I have pay the excess back. Is this right? I mean conceptually it makes sense but why would I not have been notified earlier, personally I feel like it's been long enough and not even my fault. Not to mention I don't even have the money to pay them back at this point. This area I really have no idea and my work life is very short. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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    Whether you feel it has been long enough has no legal standing. You need to consult an attorney. – chepner Feb 2 '18 at 20:18
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It sounds about right, except that if you were entitled to paid leave, and took it before the end of your contract, I'd expect you to be paid for those days as well as the ones you actually showed up for work.

When the civil service, it's generally more about keeping the books straight for the auditors, than the actual money. So, they are likely to be reasonable about a repayment plan, even if you can't afford very much a month.

I suggest you get in touch with Citizens Advice how to deal with this. Or, if your bio is up to date and you are still a student, get some help from student welfare on campus; that's what they are there for.

  • I didn't think about the student welfare. Thanks a lot, that completely escaped my mind. – shmink Feb 4 '18 at 19:14
  • As a student with presumably little income and savings you could suggest paying it back at £5 a month – Neuromancer Feb 4 '18 at 20:41
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Is this right?

Yes. They overpaid you, and now they want it back.

Turn it around. If they had underpaid you, and you didn't notice for six months for whatever reason, do you feel you should get the money owed to you?

Legally (IANAL), your terms of employment are a contract, and breaches of contract can be pursued for up to six years in the United Kingdom: Source 1, Source 2

I mean conceptually it makes sense but why would I not have been notified earlier, personally I feel like it's been long enough and not even my fault. Not to mention I don't even have the money to pay them back at this point.

None of this is really relevant. Especially if you knew at the time they were overpaying, you should not have spent that money.

This area I really have no idea and my work life is very short. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

You could contact a lawyer to see about fighting it, though I would not predict a high chance of that working out.

You could contact them stating that you don't have the money currently, and work out some form of payment plan.

You could possibly declare bankruptcy.

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    In the UK applying for bankruptcy costs £680. An adjudicator will decide if you are genuinely unable to pay your debts. A bankrupt's assets can be used to pay debts. A bankrupt can be forced to pay off debts from income over three years. It will affect your credit rating, it will affect your career prospects. A bankruptcy restriction order can last 15 years. Get competent advice before considering this. – RedGrittyBrick Feb 5 '18 at 9:44
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I am not a lawyer either but I wouldn't bother hiring one as the chances of you being allowed to keep the money are vanishingly small.

What you have now is a civil debt, but it can be difficult for the employer to claim this back but they can do via court if you don't come to an arrangement to pay the money back.

They aren't allow to charge interest on this debt so work out an amount you can comfortably afford and offer them that. If they refuse and take you to court over it, the judge will decide how much you can afford to pay and this is likely to agree with whatever amount you offer as long as it is reasonable.

One other thing, get them to confirm in writing how much they overpaid NET - you only pay them back the NET amount, if they paid tax on your behalf, which they will have done if you were PAYE then don't pay the tax mans share back to them!

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You probably need legal advice, if you want to go and fight it.
I don’t know british law, but most countries the ‘timeout’ for money you owe is at least a year if not more, so I would assume you have to pay it back.

[still guessing] the legal point will be that you should have known that you got overpaid, and should have acted accordingly. Silently keeping the money tends to legally be anywhere between ‘perfectly ok’ and ‘theft’; of course you can claim ignorance, and probably you will be fine. But that doesn’t remove the requirement to pay it back.

I recommend to either get a lawyer involved, or accept it, and contact them and explain that you don’t have it right now, and ask for a payment plan. They’ll probably offer something manageable.

Again: I am not a lawyer. This is not a official legal recommendation.

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    Rather than guessing, you could look for information and verify the statement, or delete your speculations as baseless at best and potentially harmful at worst. Disclaiming legal advice doesn't help someone who's thought you might be right and got into trouble because of it. – Nij Feb 4 '18 at 2:57
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    It’s alot more qualified than speculations, but I don’t live in the UK. If you have better advice, or want to spent the same researching it, feel free to post another answer. If I would have asked that question, I would find this answer useful; for sure better than ‘go look it up yourself’. – Aganju Feb 4 '18 at 3:07
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    There's already an answer that provides sources for some of its statements. Given that you're not even operating in the same social and legal context, these aren't qualified at all, except in the sense that you point out their lack of any base of knowledge twice. – Nij Feb 4 '18 at 5:33

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