The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has confirmed disputed invoices raised under the Fee For Intervention (FFI) cost recovery scheme will now be considered by a ‘fully independent’ panel.

The FFI scheme allows the HSE to charge for its enforcement activity. Organisations liable for FFI fees can challenge them via a ‘Queries and Disputes’ process.

But there has been criticism of the way disputed FFI invoices are considered. The process was said to lack impartiality – previously, appeals against fees were heard by a panel of two HSE staff and one independent person.

Revised panel

All disputes are now considered by a lawyer and two other independent people with practical experience of Health & Safety management. The lawyer acts as chair.

The change follows a six week public consultation in April.

Sensible changes

The HSE consistently said it would keep the dispute process under review. It says it is making ‘sensible changes’ following the consultation and its experience of running the FFI.

But the move also follows an application for judicial review by OCS Group UK Ltd. The company claimed dispute panels didn’t have the independence required to fairly determine matters.

OCS’s judicial challenge was dropped after the HSE agreed greater independence was needed.

Disputes in practice

Disputed FFI fees work in five stages:

1  Invoice query

The FFI amount must firstly be challenged by way of a ‘query’. Fees must be queried within 21 days of an invoice date.

2  HSE response

The HSE responds within 21 days of a query. It may confirm, amend or withdraw the fee.

Organisations accepting the HSE’s response:

  • in full – must pay within 30 days of the invoice date or no later than 10 days of being notified of the response
  • in part – must pay the undisputed amount within 30 days of the invoice date or no later than 10 days of being notified of the response

3  Raising a dispute

Decisions that aren’t accepted may be referred to an FFI panel by way of a ‘dispute’. A dispute should be made in writing within 21 days of the HSE’s response.

4  HSE acknowledgment

This is sent within seven days of receiving the dispute.

5  Dispute consideration 

The dispute is then considered by an independent panel. Panels must respond within 21 days by either:

  • confirming the invoice in full
  • amending it to require part payment
  • withdrawing it

Ellis Whittam’s H&S clients with Legal Expenses Insurance in place benefit from cover for HSE FFI charges. Please contact us if you have any queries.

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