Government reforms (1): Review – Tribunal fees

tribunal fees - stack of pound coinsWhat do we already know?

We updated you in our June 2015 Newsflash Tribunal fees – down and under review that the Government had announced the start of an official review into Tribunal fees.  The purpose of the review was to consider how effective the introduction of fees in 2013 had been in meeting the Government’s objectives, both financial and social, while maintaining access to justice.

At that time in June 2015 completion of the review was expected later in the year. However, the publication of the review was repeatedly delayed, despite repeated promises that publication was imminent.

What’s new?

  1. Outcome of Review: The Government’s review into Tribunal fees has finally been completed and is available here.  The review has concluded that the introduction of Tribunal fees, combined with mandatory ACAS conciliation a year later, has resulted in a substantial reduction in claims. The review concludes that the Government has met its three main objectives of 1) transferring a proportion of Tribunal costs to users; 2) encouraging people to use alternative ways of resolving disputes; and 3) protecting access to justice.  The review also says that there is no conclusive evidence that fees have prevented claims from being brought.The review rejects the conclusions of two Parliamentary Committees that the level of fees should be substantially reduced. In particular, it found no evidence that the impact of fees on pregnancy and maternity discrimination claims was such that they should be treated differently. The Women and Equalities Committee had also recommended an extension of the three month time limit for bringing these claims – this too has been rejected.
  2. Consultation on adjustment to Help with Fees scheme: Despite the Government’s above conclusions, it does concede that the substantial drop off in claims means that some action is necessary. Therefore the Government has decided that certain claims under the national insurance fund will be exempt from fees with immediate effect. The Government will also consult on proposals to widen access to its Help with Fees remission scheme. The proposal is to increase the monthly income threshold for individuals to qualify for a fee waiver, from £1,085 to £1,250 – broadly equivalent to a 40 hour week on the national living wage.

Further allowances will be made for individuals living as couples and those with children. In addition, some claims relating to insolvent companies, such as claims for redundancy payments from the National Insurance Fund, will no longer require fees.

Consultation on the fee remission proposal closes on 14 March 2017.  Interestingly, this is the same month that Unison’s legal challenge to the introduction of fees is expected to be heard in the courts.