Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. Leveson inquiry: in search of a smoking gun (Guardian)

Lord Justice Leveson could soon discover why David Cameron failed to give Andy Coulson full security vetting, says Ian Katz.

2. Too clever by half just isn’t clever enough (Times) (£)

Rachel Sylvester writes that the coalition is in danger of failing the "hang on a minute" test. Voters want common sense, not smart wheezes.

3. Ed’s got talent, but he has to win over the toughest crowd of all (Daily Telegraph)

The electorate needs more than a Labour love-in if it is to trust the party with power, says Mary Riddell.

4. Greece’s exit may become the euro’s envy (Financial Times)

History shows that there is life after financial crises, writes Arvind Subramanian.

5. Never take your foot off the reform pedal (Times) (£)

Filling the MoD black hole meant fighting inertia and a culture of resistance, says Liam Fox. It worked.

6. Moral decay? Family life's the best it's been for 1,000 years (Guardian)

George Monbiot says that Conservatives' concerns about marriage seem to be based on a past that is fabricated from their own anxieties and obsessions.

7. One bullseye cannot rescue Obama’s global record (Financial Times)

The US president’s real problem is that he has over-promised and under-delivered, says Gideon Rachman.

8. It’s bullying, Mitt. How can you not recall it? (Times) (£)

You’re a perpetrator, a victim or a bystander. Ben Macintyre says that the playground incident tells us much about the presidential hopeful.

9. Clegg and Cameron's cruellest day (Guardian)

From business to the disabled, Polly Toynbee says that Monday was special even for a cabinet whose dogmatic bungling is unrivalled in modern Britain.

10. What to expect from François Hollande (Financial Times)

The new French president has a clear three-point economic strategy, writes Philippe Aghion.

 

 

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How tribunal fees silenced low-paid workers: “it was more than I earned in a month”

The government was forced to scrap them after losing a Supreme Court case.

How much of a barrier were employment tribunal fees to low-paid workers? Ask Elaine Janes. “Bringing up six children, I didn’t have £20 spare. Every penny was spent on my children – £250 to me would have been a lot of money. My priorities would have been keeping a roof over my head.”

That fee – £250 – is what the government has been charging a woman who wants to challenge their employer, as Janes did, to pay them the same as men of a similar skills category. As for the £950 to pay for the actual hearing? “That’s probably more than I earned a month.”

Janes did go to a tribunal, but only because she was supported by Unison, her trade union. She has won her claim, although the final compensation is still being worked out. But it’s not just about the money. “It’s about justice, really,” she says. “I think everybody should be paid equally. I don’t see why a man who is doing the equivalent job to what I was doing should earn two to three times more than I was.” She believes that by setting a fee of £950, the government “wouldn’t have even begun to understand” how much it disempowered low-paid workers.

She has a point. The Taylor Review on working practices noted the sharp decline in tribunal cases after fees were introduced in 2013, and that the claimant could pay £1,200 upfront in fees, only to have their case dismissed on a technical point of their employment status. “We believe that this is unfair,” the report said. It added: "There can be no doubt that the introduction of fees has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of cases brought."

Now, the government has been forced to concede. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Unison’s argument that the government acted unlawfully in introducing the fees. The judges said fees were set so high, they had “a deterrent effect upon discrimination claims” and put off more genuine cases than the flimsy claims the government was trying to deter.

Shortly after the judgement, the Ministry of Justice said it would stop charging employment tribunal fees immediately and refund those who had paid. This bill could amount to £27m, according to Unison estimates. 

As for Janes, she hopes low-paid workers will feel more confident to challenge unfair work practices. “For people in the future it is good news,” she says. “It gives everybody the chance to make that claim.” 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.