Employment tribunal fees – Government publishes review and consultation on proposed reform to the remission scheme

United Kingdom

This article was produced by Olswang LLP, which joined with CMS on 1 May 2017.

The Ministry of Justice has published its long awaited review of the introduction of employment tribunal fees.  This incorporates a consultation on proposals for reform of the existing remission scheme under which qualifying claimants can receive help with paying the fees required to bring a claim.

Purpose of review and conclusions

The purpose of the review was to assess whether the introduction of employment tribunal fees has met its original objectives of encouraging parties to use alternative services to help resolve disputes, requiring those using the employment tribunal service to contribute to its running costs and protecting access to justice.

Broadly, the review states that the introduction of fees has met the intended objectives in that users are now contributing around £9 million per year to tribunal service running costs, there has been a significant increase in people using the ACAS free conciliation service and where conciliation has not worked, many do go on to issue proceedings in the employment tribunal.

The review concludes that, whilst many people have chosen not to bring claims in the employment tribunal, there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that they been prevented from doing so. 

Government proposals

The review had, however, highlighted some matters of concern which could not be ignored, in particular that the fall in employment tribunal claims has been significant and greater than originally anticipated.   The Government proposes taking action to address these concerns and this centres around extending access to the support available under the "Help with Fees" scheme.  

Specifically, the Government proposes raising the current gross monthly income threshold at which full remission is available from £1,085 to £1,250 for a single person - broadly the gross income of a single person working full time on the current national living wage rate of £7.20 per hour.  

The Government has also removed with effect from 31 January 2017 fees in three specified types of proceedings where employees, usually of insolvent employers, seek payments out of the National Insurance Fund including redundancy payments. 

The review and consultation can be accessed here.  If you wish to respond to the consultation you need to do so by 14 March 2017.

Supreme Court case on employment tribunal fees

The introduction of employment tribunal fees and access to justice is the subject of the judicial review challenge by the trade union UNISON which goes before the Supreme Court at the end of March.  We will be featuring coverage of this case in our UKSC blog which we co-author with Matrix Chambers and which can be accessed here.