The Government responds to Justice Committee recommendations

In June 2016 the House of Commons Justice Committee published its second report on courts and tribunals fees.  The report made a number of recommendations including a substantial reduction in employment tribunal fees. The Justice committee was also highly critical of the Government’s failure to publish its post-implementation review of employment tribunal fees launched on on 11 June 2015. Parliament debated the contents of the report on 4 July.

On 9 November the Government published its response to these recommendations.

Employment tribunal fees to be scrapped?

Anyone holding out hope that employment tribunal fees will be scrapped may not take too much comfort from the opening section of the report:

“In 2015/16, the net cost of the courts and tribunals service to the taxpayer was £1.2 billion. This is unsustainably high and we think that it is right to reconsider the balance of funding between the taxpayer and those who use the courts and tribunals and can afford to make a larger contribution. We will continue to look for opportunities to increase fee income where they are justified. A scheme of fee remissions, known as Help with Fees, is generally available for those who need help with paying court and tribunal fees.”

The Government’s repeated the same line taken earlier this year saying its report on employment tribunal fees will be published ‘in due course’. Bearing in mind the review was announced prior to the last general election and officially launched 11 June 2015, there has been no explanation for delay.

The Justice Committee’s recommendations:

i. the overall quantum of fees charged for bringing cases to employment tribunals should be substantially reduced;

ii. the binary Type A/type B distinction should be replaced: acceptable alternatives could be a single fee; by a three tier structure as suggested by the Senior President of Tribunals; or by a level of fee set as a proportion of the amount claimed, with the fee waived if the amount claimed is below a determined level.

iii. disposable capital and monthly income threshold for fee remission should be increased, and no more than one fee remission application should be required, covering both the issue and prospective hearing fee and with the threshold for exemption calculated in the assumption that both fees will be paid;

iv. further special consideration should be given to the position of women alleging maternity or pregnancy discrimination, for whom, at the least the time limit of three months for bringing a claim should be reviewed.

The Government’s response to those recommendations:

“These recommendations relate mainly to matters under consideration in the Government’s review of fees in the Employment Tribunals which is considering the impact of the introduction of fees in relation to the principal objectives set, including, insofar as we are able, the impact in relation to characteristics protected under the Equality Act 2010. We will publish the outcome of our review in due course and any proposals we have to adjust the current scheme of fees and remissions will be set out for public consultation.”

Extension of time-limits for bringing maternity and pregnancy claims?

Our hunch is the Government will agree to this proposal. What do you think?

This is what the Government had to say:

“The Committee’s final recommendation includes a recommendation to review the time limit of three months for pregnancy or maternity related claims. This is not a matter related to Employment Tribunals fees and we believe that it is therefore strictly outside the terms of reference for the Committee’s review.

Furthermore, the Committee may be aware that the Women and Equalities Select Committee, in their recent report on pregnancy and maternity related discrimination published on 31 August 2016,1 also recommended that the time limit for bringing pregnancy and maternity discrimination claims to the Employment Tribunals should be reviewed. The Government is considering the recommendations of the Women and Equalities Select Committee, and we will be responding to them, including on the time limits for bringing pregnancy and maternity discrimination claims to the Employment Tribunals, in due course.”

The Justice Committee’s reaction

Bob Neill MP, Chair of the Justice Committee, said the following in relation to the Government’s response:

“It is disappointing that the Government Response is so negative in respect of the Justice Committee’s recommendations; perhaps more concerning is that it is almost offensively perfunctory, appearing to have been rushed out at short notice and giving little evidence of attention paid to the Committee’s detailed evidence and analysis. This is all the more surprising given that Government has had more than four months to produce this reply. I therefore intend to raise this matter and possible further steps with the Committee at our next meeting.”

 

 

 

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