Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

  1. Snowden: UK government now leaking documents about itself (Guardian)

    The NSA whistleblower says: 'I have never spoken with, worked with, or provided any journalistic materials to the Independent', writes Glen Greenwald

  2. Kids need more playtime – and less school (Independent)

    Too many children spend the most magical lives of their years sitting down, writes Amy Jenkins.

  3. Gender stereotyping is unhelpful and counter-productive – whoever's doing it (Guardian)

    Assuming that men are not responsible for their actions harms them just as much as it harms women, writes Deborah Orr

  4. The Arab Spring has failed because constitutional democracy needs nation-states (Telegraph)

    What is happening to the region, so recently optimistic? asks Daniel Hannan

  5. Official: wind turbines are an iniquitous assault on property rights (Telegraph)

    Why don't I wish to buy my dream home in my dream valley any more? Because the greed and selfishness of a local sheep farmer has killed it, that's why, writes James Delingpole

  6. Terrorism will win if the trust has gone (Financial Times)

    Security and privacy are incompatible goals, writes John Thornhill

  7. Steve Jobs’ genius isn’t movie material (Financial Times)

    The new biopic of the Apple co-founder is a corporate hagiography for the YouTube age, writes Christopher Caldwell

  8. What’s bugging America? (Financial Times)

    In Manhattan, it was easier to bring guns into the lobby of my building than a new mattress, writes Gillian Tett

  9. Scotland is going it alone – regardless of the referendum (Guardian)

    There may be no divorce, but devolution combined with a rightwing Westminster government is moving our nations in separate directions, says Steve Richards.

  10. Caroline Lucas standing in a field waving a placard? Outrageous! (Independent)

    The MP obviously took it too far by meeting a bloke with dreadlocks who lives up trees, writes Mark Steel.

 

Getty
Show Hide image

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.