Economic lookahead: w/c 12 March

Unemployment figures released, second Greek bailout discussed, and goldbugs debating at the IEA.

Monday

  • Eurozone finance ministers meet, and are expected to approve the second Greek bailout now that the country has fulfilled it requirements by convincing creditors to drop more than €100bn of debt'
  • UN World Water Development Report says demand for water is threatening all major development targets.
  • World Travel & Tourism Council say that air passenger duty is costing the UK economy billions.
  • Centre for Economics & Business Research blame rising commodity prices for a fall in real disposeable income in the UK.
  • FSB's Voice of Small Business Index released.

 

Tuesday

  • Annual review of the inflation basket. Previous years have seen the introduction of Blu-ray players and flatscreen TV's, and the merging of "women's trousers" and "women's skirts".
  • OECD harmonised unemployment rates; released the day before the UK's own unemployment figures, these serve as a useful international comparator.
  • Department for Communities and Local Government release their house price index. The only government-collated house price index, these will be the figures to use to examine the NewBuy program.
  • ONS releases the UK trade figures.

 

Wednesday

  • UK unemployment figures released. Expected to show a rise in unemployment and youth unemployment.
  • Mark Hoban, Financial Secretary, will be up in front of the European Scrutiny Committee talking about the eurozone debt crisis.
  • Consumer Credit Counselling Service will release their annual statistical yearbook. Personal debt has fallen out of the spotlight, but there's growing consensus that if there is another debt crisis, this is the sector it will fall upon.
  • Lord Turner, chairman of the FSA, will interviewed by the Treasury Select Committee about mortgages.

 

Thursday

  • OECD launch their report on the medium term environmental outlook.
  • IEA host a discussion on the return to the gold standard, 6:30pm, London.
  • Debate on lowering the price of motherhood at the Resolution Foundation, 10:30am, London.
  • IMF board to discuss the second Greek bailout.

 

Friday

  • Financial policy committee of the Bank of England to meet.
  • Japan releases its monthly economic report.

 

The basket of goods which determines inflation is set to change. Credit: Getty

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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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.