With top judges signalling a mass exodus amid plunging morale, the government has confirmed it is introducing a temporary allowance to persuade judges not to leave the bench.
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson told the Gazette that it was ‘absolutely paramount that we get the right people into the High Court, which also offers a crucial pipeline into the higher judiciary’.
The spokesperson said: ‘We are introducing a temporary, targeted allowance to make sure we attract the very brightest talent and help stop our exceptional judges from leaving early.’
A Judicial Attitudes Survey, published this month, found that more than 40% of senior judges intend to quit early within five years.
Over three-quarters of judges felt their working conditions have deteriorated since 2014, with 46% of circuit judges responding that they were ‘significantly’ worse.
Most judges (64%) reported that the morale of court staff was poor; 43% said the maintenance of their building was poor; and 42% said administrative support was poor.
An overwhelming majority (78%) of salaried judges said they have lost earnings over the last two years, with 62% citing pension changes as affecting them personally. Three-quarters felt their pay and pension combined did not adequately reflect their work and most said it was affecting morale.
Meanwhile, government figures show a rapid decline in the number of immigration tribunal judges since 2012.
The possibility of an allowance first came to light in a pensions dispute between the government and 210 judges.
In an employment tribunal judgment published last month, tribunal judge Stuart Williams said evidence before him showed that a recruitment and retention allowance ‘remains currently a proposal and is not yet a firm commitment’.
Williams said documentary evidence ‘clearly shows some sensitivity’ in the government about how such an allowance, if made, should be presented publicly.
Williams found that the combination of adverse pension changes and successive taxation changes had reduced the overall value of a High Court judge’s remuneration to the point where it had become difficult to recruit new High Court judges.
However, he said there was no necessary connection between the government’s transitional provisions regarding pension reforms and the proposed allowance.