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/ 25 Apr 2013

Court fee remission scheme: Government consultation launched

The Government has launched a consultation regarding the current fee remission system across HM Courts and Tribunals (HMCS) Service. For more details click here .

The Consultation was launched on 18 April 2013 and will run until 16 May 2013. The proposal is that a standard fee remission system will be introduced across all fee paying courts and tribunals. This would include the Employment Tribunal when fees are introduced in summer 2013.

The proposed new system would include a two part eligibility test to determine whether the applicant is eligible for a full or partial remission:
1. The household disposable capital test; and
2. The household income test.

1. Disposable Capital Test
The disposable capital test is entirely new to HMCS. Currently those on “passported” benefits would be automatically eligible for a full fee remission. This would not be the case under the new system as everyone would first have to pass the disposable capital test.

The proposed thresholds are as follows:

Fee Disposable capital threshold
Up to £1000 £3000
Up to £4000 £8000
Over £4000 £16,000

The Government has acknowledged the administrative burden, both on the applicant and the Court, of having to prove the level of capital via extensive documentary evidence. As such the consultation suggests that the applicant would simply declare the value of their household disposable capital by way of a statement of truth on the fee remission application form. This statement would in normal cases be sufficient proof although the court or tribunal manager would have the power to request more information if necessary.

2. Income Test
The current system assesses the applicant’s annual gross income but it is proposed that the new system would focus instead on the gross monthly income. The maximum income thresholds are as follows:

Gross monthly income Single Couple
No children £1,085 £1,245
1 child £1,330 £1,490
2 children £1,575 £1,735

The Government in the Consultation have acknowledged what practitioners have realised for some time, namely that the current partial remission system is “complex for users to understand and burdensome on applicants and staff”. Accordingly a simplified system is proposed whereby anyone with income above the thresholds will be required to pay a fee which will increase in line with income, subject to a new income cap.

Recipients of current “passported” benefits would still be automatically entitled to a full fee remission once they have passed the disposable capital test. The new Universal Credit benefit is to be introduced in October 2013 and recipients of this will not be automatically entitled to a full fee remission. Some recipients may be “passported” depending on the level of Universal Credits received however the precise details of this have not yet been decided.

Applicants will still need to produce documentary evidence as to income. The suggested evidence is either documentary evidence of a qualifying benefit from DWP or three months’ bank statements, most recent original wage slips and any documentation showing additional income.

Employment Tribunal Fees

In respect of the Employment Tribunal in particular, it is still not clear when and how the fees will be introduced although the proposals above can give practitioners a useful insight into how the system might operate.

The capital test is an interesting addition as many Claimants will be out of work (hence bringing a claim) so would be likely to pass the income test but may fall foul of the initial capital test.

It also remains to be seen how the remission system affects the strict time limits for bringing a claim in the Employment Tribunal. If someone has a claim ready to submit but does not have all the necessary documentary evidence will they therefore forfeit their right to claim if the remission is not processed in time?

Hopefully these issues will become clearer once exact details as to how the Tribunals will process fees become known.

Amy Walker
Employment Law Solicitor

If you have an Employment query then please do not hesitate to contact our Employment Team, who offer advice on all aspects of Employment Law. Call Hanne & Co on 020 7228 0017 or email info@hanne.co.uk

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