The government has released its long awaited review of ET fees; ultimately, launching a consultation on new proposals to change the ET fees remission scheme (called ‘Help with Fees’).
Since the introduction of ET fees, a Claimant bringing a claim in the ET with low income and/or with ‘exceptional circumstances’ has been able to seek help with paying ET fees through the fee remission scheme. Notwithstanding this, the government’s review suggests that fees have discouraged some people from bringing proceedings.
In summary, the government’s review 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 ET 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 in the ET.
The government has however identified some issues of concern. The fall in claims has been significantly greater than was estimated when fees were first introduced. Although the government remain satisfied that there are sufficient safeguards in place to make sure that fees do not prevent people from bringing claims before the ETs, there does appear to be evidence that fees have discouraged some people from bringing proceedings.
The government is therefore consulting on proposals for an adjustment to the Help with Fees scheme to extend the scope of support available to people on lower incomes.
Whilst the proposed reforms are in their preliminary stage and appear relatively minor, it is worth bearing in mind that an increase in claims against your business could ultimately result as consequence.
If you would like to discuss the above or any other employment matter further, please do not hesitate to contact our Employment Team.