Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Coming through... the arrogance of power (Telegraph)
Andrew Mitchell can apologise all he wants, but he's done his bit to retoxify the Tory brand, says Matthew Norman 

2. It's the whale in the paddling pool of politics (Times £)
Party funding is a plague on us all, says Matthew Parris

3. Tory posh boys who think they're born to rule (Daily Mail)
You see the true character of a politician when they think they're off camera, says Amanda Platell

4. The real Mitt Romney is instensely relaxed among the filthy rich (Guardian)
Wanting politicians to drop the artifice and tell it to us straight is all very well, but we may not like what we hear, says Jonathan Freedland

5. The last thing the Church of England needs is a pleasant middle manager (Telegraph)
The next Archbishop of Canterbury must connect with all of Britain's people, says Charles Moore

6. Paul Burstow is not just a miffed ex-minister (Daily Mail)
He's right that social care needs reform, says Dominique Jackson

7. Morally repugnant tax avoiders can rest easy under Cameron (Guardian)
Moving from tax haven to tax haven is called success, says Tany Gold 

8. I'm not sorry for saying sorry (Independent)
The Lib Dem leader faces a difficult conference, says Andrew Grice 

9. Is the modern military really scared of a baby? (Times £)
The army should get its head out of the desert sand, says Janice Turner

10. When a sacred text is the word of man (Independent)
Christians are able to accept the reinterpretations of Jesus, says Selina O'Grady

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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.