Government in ‘minor key” on Tribunal fee reform
The government’s long awaited review of Employment Tribunal fees has now been published. There is no plan to reduce fee levels or to increase the disposable capital threshold for fee remission. The changes proposed are therefore relatively minor and do not satisfy the many voices that have called for fees to be abolished or significantly reduced.
In contrast the government insists that the introduction of fees has “broadly met its objectives” and it continues to encourage employees to settle claims out of court via Acas’s free conciliation service.The Review acknowledges that there appears to be evidence that fees have discouraged some people from bringing proceedings, citing a group of people identified by Acas as unable to resolve their disputes through conciliation and who did not go on to make employment tribunal claims because they could not afford to pay. However it says that there is ‘no conclusive evidence’ that anyone has been prevented from bringing a claim.
The Review also finds that the introduction of mandatory conciliation through Acas in May 2014 has been effective in assisting a proportion of claimants to resolve their disputes and, as a result, the number of tribunal claims had reduced.
Instead of any major reform the government has launched a consultation on new proposals to change the ET fees remission scheme. The main proposal is to increase the gross monthly income threshold for a fee remission from £1,085 to £1,250 – roughly in line with the National Living Wage. It is also proposing to scrap fees for claims against insolvent employers paid by the National Insurance Fund.
The wider battle on fees will therefore resume on 27 March 2017, when the Supreme Court hears Unison’s appeal against the rejection of its legal challenge by the Court of Appeal.