Government introduces recruitment and retention allowance for judges

Judges

The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has introduced a new temporary allowance for High Court, Circuit and Upper Tribunal judges in order to improve retention and recruitment.

The policy, which was announced on Wednesday 5 June 2019, will award an allowance at 25% of base salary for High Court judges, while Circuit and Upper Tribunal judges who are eligible for the judiciary’s new pension scheme will be able to receive an allowance at 15% of their basic pay. This will replace the existing allowance set at 11% of base salary for High Court judges.

The MOJ predicts that around a quarter of the 1,850 salaried judges in England and Wales will be eligible for the new allowances, with approximately 60 judges able to receive the higher 25% level.

The government has also confirmed a 2% pay increase for all members of the judiciary in 2019-2020.

The new measures have been implemented in response to a review by the Senior Salaries Review Body (SSRB), an advisory non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Cabinet Office, which provides independent advice to the prime minister, lord chancellor, secretary of state for defence, secretary of state for health and home secretary on the pay of senior civil servants, the judiciary, senior officers of the armed forces, certain senior managers in the NHS, police and crime commissioners and chief police officers.

The review, which was submitted last October, identified a significant recruitment and retention issue within the judiciary, particularly at senior levels. It reported that new judges joining the judiciary from private practice could experience pay cuts of up to two-thirds. In conjunction with this, more than 10% of High Court judicial positions are currently vacant, according to the MOJ, while the Chancery Division, which deals with major commercial cases, is 20% understaffed; this is expected to rise to 40% by the end of 2019.

The introduction of the new allowances aims to resolve the judiciary’s immediate retirement issue until a long-term, pension-based solution can be implemented for all judges.

However, the allowances are below the SSRB’s recommendation of a 32% permanent salary increase for High Court judges and a 22% pay rise for Circuit and Upper Tribunal judges covered by the new 2015 pension scheme.

David Gauke, lord chancellor, said: “Our judges are a cornerstone of our democratic society; their experience draws billions of pounds worth of business to the UK, and without them people cannot get justice.

“We have reached a critical point. There are too many vacancies and with the retirement of many judges looming, we must act now before we see a serious impact on our courts and tribunals.

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“Judges are in a unique position and, once they join the bench, are not permitted to return to practice. Without the best legal minds in these seats, everyone that uses our courts will suffer, as will our international reputation.

“This temporary allowance, pending long-term pension scheme change, will enable us to continue to attract the brightest and best and prevent delays to potentially life-changing decisions.”