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Proposed tribunal fees stir up mixed reactions

Business groups have given varied responses to proposed tribunal and redundancy reforms, following the end of a Government consultation on the two systems on 6 March.

The proposed reforms include the introduction of a £250 fee for workers wanting to make an employment tribunal claim, with an additional charge of £1,000 if it is accepted and given a hearing date. The Government has also proposed cutting the redundancy consultation period and altering the qualifying employment period for making a claim from one to two years.

Commenting on the end of the Government's consultation process, John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said that tribunal fees could give firms the confidence to hire new staff.

"The tribunal system has long been in need of reform," he said. "Introducing fees for claimants is a step in the right direction as it will help to discourage spurious and baseless claims, and will save employers time and money."

The BCC did however say that the Government had still 'not got it right' and suggested tiered fees for those claiming larger amounts to minimise 'vexatious' claims and allow genuine grievances access to the system.

The Institute of Directors (IoD) similarly supported the decision to introduce claimant fees and suggested means-testing as a way of fairly charging those seeking tribunal decisions.

The IoD commented: "If tribunal fees are to act as a reasonable deterrent they should only be remitted to those who truly cannot afford them. At the moment a couple with an income of £40,000 or even more could be totally exempt from paying an employment tribunal fee, which is absurd."

Neil Carberry, director for employment and skills policy at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), also voiced concerns that the current proposals were ineffective in deterring weak claims.

The CBI said: "Businesses have been pressing for reform of the tribunal system for many years. It needs to be simpler, faster and more effective at weeding out weak or vexatious claims. For these changes to work, all claimants must be asked to pay a fee. Current government proposals will have over a quarter of people paying no fee at all and a further half paying just a partial fee."

The mixed opinions place Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly, who is overseeing the plans, under greater pressure to reform the existing systems in a fair but firm manner. The Government will announce the next round of business regulations in the coming month, with any new legislation changes coming into effect from 6 April 2012.