Department for Communities places responsibility on Employers for debt collection relating to social security overpayments
Impact on low income households likely severe as guidance allows repayments to 40% of net earnings
November 10th: Unite Community Coordinator, Albert Hewitt, expressed his concern after his union’s community members learned of communications to employers from the Department for Communities which seek to push responsibility for social security debt collection onto private sector employers:
“The Department has issued letters to employers demanding they act as debt collectors to recover benefit overpayments and emergency social fund loans from individuals, where they are unable to agree a repayment schedule themselves.
“Employers are threatened with a one thousand pound fine unless they deduct repayments from workers’ earnings. Guidance issued by the Department indicates that workers could lose up to 40% of their take-home pay and that employers can charge a £1 administration fee per deduction.
“Workers can have benefit overpayments through no fault of their own, for example from administrative error, while those unable to agree a repayment scheme with social security are likely to be in very challenging circumstances – yet they will be subjected to punitive deductions. Unlike social security repayment schedules, under this mechanism there is no allowance for the very real financial pressures facing households in poverty.
“This proposal is likely to pit low-paid workers against their employers and may offer a means for exploitative bosses to target particular workers for more severe deductions.
“This measure will impact most on those who have only just returned to work and threatens to push many into the black economy where they will lack the range of legal protections and rights. It is truly regressive.
“Unite is calling on Minister Givan and the wider NI Executive to review this policy with immediate effect”, Mr Hewitt concluded.