Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Putin's veto sets Russia apart (Guardian)

Ignore Russia's public relations machine, says David Hearst: Putin has misread the turmoil in Syria as much as he has the protests at home.

2. It's time to support the opposition in the Syrian civil war (Financial Times)

Thanks to Russia and China, there is no guarantee Syria can avoid a bloody fate, write Malcolm Rifkind and Shashank Joshi.

3. Moral Blindness (Times) (£)

Russia and China acted for self-serving motives in vetoing the Security Council's condemnation of the bloodshed in Syria, says this leading article.

4. Oxford should refuse the Iron Lady this honour (Independent)

Baroness Thatcher's ideas should be freely taught, says Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, but a centre bearing her name would be a sign of undisputed greatness.

5. How Britain's migrants sewed the fabric of the nation (Guardian)

History shows it's hard to pick out which migrants will be good for the UK, says Robert Winder. It is risky for the state to try.

6. Britain won't create a Facebook until we learn to praise success (Daily Telegraph)

Unemployment is falling in the US, where wealth-creators are applauded, rather than denounced, writes Boris Johnson.

7. This 11-year exercise in self-delusion must end (Times) (£)

Our intervention in Afghanistan has been disastrous. Let's make the final months count, says Paddy Ashdown.

8. The how-to guide to toppling tyrants (Financial Times)

George B. N. Ayittey, an expert in the nature and flaws of tyranny, explains why undermining dictators is a science that requires time and thought.

9. What Whitehall could learn from Washington (Independent)

This leading article argues that ministers should introduce fresh blood into a service whose signal defect remains its institutional aversion to change.

10. The Iron Professor has one year to save Italy (Times) (£)

Mario Monti is trying to shock his country out of decline, says Bill Emmott -- but will he survive strikes and recession?

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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.