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3 February 2017

Consultation on minor changes to Employment Tribunal fees

The Government has revealed the outcome of its review of Employment Tribunal fees and launched a consultation on new proposals to change the fees remission scheme (called ‘Help with Fees’). The Government considers that its review of Employment Tribunal Fees shows that the introduction of fees has broadly met its objectives:
  • Users are contributing between £8.5 million and £9 million a year in fee income, in line with what the Government expected, transferring a proportion of the cost from the taxpayer to those who use the tribunal;
  • More people are now using Acas’s free conciliation service than were previously using voluntary conciliation and bringing claims to the Employment Tribunal combined; and
  • Acas’s conciliation 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 proceedings.

Given these conclusions, it is not surprising that the planned changes are only minor.

Under the Government’s new proposals, the gross monthly income threshold for a fee remission would be increased from £1,085 to £1,250: broadly the level of someone working full time and earning the National Living Wage. Additional allowances for people living as couples and for those with children would continue to apply.

What perhaps is surprising, is that these proposals have come out in advance of the Supreme Court’s hearing on the 27th March 2017 of Unison’s appeal against the rejection by the Court of Appeal of its legal challenge to fees.  

The Government accepts that ‘there does appear to be evidence that fees have discouraged some people from bringing proceedings’, but it states that there is ‘no conclusive evidence that anyone has been prevented from doing so.’ The Government is satisfied that there are sufficient safeguards in place to make sure that fees do not prevent people from bringing claims before the Employment Tribunals, but is proposing to reform the Help with Fees scheme.

The consultation closes on 14 March 2017 and you can find the consultation document here.

The House of Commons Library has a briefing summarising the developments since Employment Tribunal Fees were introduced in 2013. You can find the briefing here.

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