The government has concluded in its long-awaited review of the introduction of employment tribunal fees that they have not prevented people from bringing claims.
The review, published last week, accepts that while there is clear evidence that fees have “discouraged” people from bringing claims, there is no conclusive evidence that they were prevented from issuing proceedings because they could not afford to pay the fee. No one could be in this position, according to the government, because of the standard Help with Fees scheme and the Lord Chancellor’s exceptional power to remit fees.
Although the government acknowledges that the drop in the number of cases brought by claimants since fees were introduced in July 2013 “has been significant and much greater than originally estimated”, it still insists that, in many cases, this is a positive outcome because of the increased numbers of people referring their disputes to the Acas conciliation service.
Finally, however, it grudgingly admits there is “some” evidence that “some” people who have been unable to resolve their disputes through conciliation have been “discouraged” from bringing a claim because of the requirement to pay a fee.
It has therefore decided to extend access to the support available under the Help with Fees scheme to help people on low incomes. To this end, it is proposing to extend the monthly income threshold for a fee remission to be increased from £1,085 to £1,250 which is broadly the level of earnings for a single person working full time on the current National Living Wage.
It has also concluded that it is no longer appropriate to charge a fee for the following tribunal proceedings because they often involve employers who are insolvent. These are:
- references to tribunals related to a redundancy payment from the National Insurance Fund, under section 170 of the Employment Rights Act (ERA)
- complaints that the Secretary of State has failed to make any, or insufficient, payment out of the National Insurance Fund, under section 188 of the ERA; and
- complaints under section 128 of the Pension Schemes Act 1993.
Iain Birrell of Thompsons Solicitors said “The government has published a consultation looking for views on extending its 'Help with Fees' scheme and setting out its findings from the review into the impact of fees since they were introduced.
As we did when they were introduced in 2013, we believe that the premise of fees is inherently wrong and acts as a barrier to justice for many workers who are treated unfairly by their employer.”
To read the review in full, go to: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/587649/Review-of-introduction-of-fees-in-employment-tribunals.pdf