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UK Government opens employment tribunal fees consultation

1 February 2017

A review of employment tribunal fees has been opened by the UK Government, which has admitted that there is evidence that some people are being put off from bringing claims.

Introduced in 2013, the fees were followed by a fall of about 70% in the number of claims, and legal challenges on the basis that they were having a discriminatory effect. The Scottish Government has promised to abolish the fees when the subject becomes devolved.

According to the new paper, the Government’s review of the fees shows that their introduction "has broadly met its objectives", in that: 

  • users are contributing between £8.5m and £9m a year in fee income, "in line with what we expected"; 
  • more people are now using Acas’s free conciliation service than were previously using voluntary conciliation and bringing claims to the ET combined;
  • and the Acas service is effective in helping just under half the people who refer disputes to them avoid the need to go to the tribunal, and where conciliation has not worked, most people go on to issue tribunal proceedings.

"We have however identified some issues of concern", the accompanying notice states. "The fall in claims has been significantly greater than was estimated when fees were first introduced. Although we remain satisfied that there are sufficient safeguards in place to make sure that fees do not prevent people from bringing claims before the ETs, there does appear to be evidence that fees have discouraged some people from bringing proceedings.

"We are therefore consulting on proposals for an adjustment to the Help with Fees scheme to extend the scope of support available to people on lower incomes."

Describing the overall fall in claims as "troubling", the paper states ministers' belief that the best way to target the reforms is to make adjustments to the fee remissions scheme. "Fee remissions are means tested, which means that our proposals to widen access to the scheme would benefit those on lower incomes, but whose gross monthly income is above the current thresholds. Under these proposals, more people would be exempt entirely from fees, and others would contribute less towards the fee."

However it is not proposed to adjust the rules about capital, despite representations that redundancy and similar lump sum payments should be disregarded, as fees can be recovered on a successful claim. 

It is also proposed that proceedings about payments from the National Insurance Fund should be exempt from fees. 

Click here to access the consultation. The deadline for responses is 14 March 2017.

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