Following the introduction of fees for claimants to bring a claim in an employment tribunal from 29 July 2013, the existing fee remission scheme applicable to the civil courts was extended to include employment tribunals. This scheme is designed to ensure that those who are on low incomes do not have to pay the necessary fee, either in full or part.
Claimants who do not qualify under the fee remission scheme may be awarded a sum to reimburse them for the amount of the fee they paid, if they eventually succeed in their claim at the employment tribunal.
Earlier this year, the Ministry of Justice issued a consultation on proposals for the reform of the existing fee remissions scheme. It has recently issued its response to the consultation, confirming the changes that will take place with effect from 7 October 2013. The new fee remission scheme will apply to all courts and tribunals, with the exception of the First tier Immigration and Asylum Tribunal.
The current fee remission system provides for three separate routes to determine whether an individual is entitled to a full or part remission of fees:
- Receipt of one of five qualifying benefits;
- Gross annual income (either individually or jointly with a partner) below the applicable threshold;
- Disposable net monthly income, below the applicable threshold.
Under the new scheme, two tests will apply to determine whether an individual is eligible for full or part remission, both of which the individual must satisfy:
- Disposable capital test; and
- Gross monthly income test (which excludes the receipt of certain benefits).
To determine whether an individual is eligible under the fee remission scheme, the disposable capital and gross income of their partner is usually also taken into account.
By way of an example, for a single person with no children to be eligible to receive a full fee remission, their gross monthly income must be less than £1,085 and their disposable capital must be less than £3,000 (if the applicable fee is below £1,000).
An application for a fee remission must be made at the time when the fee would otherwise be payable. The applicant must:
- Indicate the fee to which the application relates;
- Declare the amount of their disposable capital; and
- Provide documentary evidence of their gross monthly income and the number of children they have.
The time limit for making a retrospective fee remission application under the new scheme will be reduced to three months, from six months under the existing scheme.
The Courts and Tribunals Fee Remissions Order 2013 (SI 2013/2302) has been laid before Parliament and will take effect from 7 October 2013.
Further information on the existing (pre-7 October 2013) fee remission scheme for claimants is available here.
Information on the new scheme (from 7 October 2013) will be available on the Ministry of Justice website.