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Employment Tribunal Fees

The results of a Westminster Government review of the employment tribunal fee regime have been published. In essence, the conclusion is that, although it is accepted that fees have discouraged people from bringing claims, “there is no conclusive evidence that they have been prevented from doing so”.

The main substantive change put forward is to raise the threshold at which full remission from tribunal fees is available. The monthly gross income for a single claimant to gain full remission would be £1,250 (up from £1,085), with a higher threshold for couples and those with children. It is also proposed that fees should no longer apply where a claim relates to the National Insurance Fund in circumstances where the employer is insolvent.

Separately, the challenge to the fee regime brought by Unison, which was rejected by the Court of Appeal, is scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court in late March.

The position in Scotland is further complicated by the Scottish Government’s announcement some time ago that employment tribunal fees would be abolished once powers were devolved enabling it to do so. Although consultations have concluded on the detailed arrangements, no date has been announced for the proposed abolition.

Pensions Auto-enrolment

The Department of Work and Pensions is undertaking a review of pensions auto-enrolment. The review is at an early stage and too soon for any specific reforms to have emerged. Instead the review will address the coverage of auto-enrolment, for example whether the earnings trigger of £10,000 and the age criteria of age 22 to state pension age are still appropriate. The relevance of having ‘non-eligible jobholders’ and ‘entitled workers’ categories will also be examined.

Secondly, the review will consider engagement with individuals and the underlying communication mechanisms to achieve sustained workplace pensions saving, and thirdly, what future contribution levels are appropriate, including the balance between employer and individual contributions, the scope (if any) for a more flexible approach around an individual’s life and employment journey and the extent to which individuals are saving for retirement outside of a workplace pension. The default fund charging cap will also be considered.

Acknowledging that the review is at a formative stage, members will be kept advised of any developments in due course.