Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Labour's golden policy key? Build, build and build more (Guardian)

We've seen intellectual Ed, writes Polly Toynbee. But if Miliband wants to win in 2015, he needs one idea that has our inner optimist jumping for joy.

2. A wary, weary west is leaving Syria in the butchers’ hands (Daily Telegraph)

It doesn’t matter where we put the red lines: the terrible truth is that we are more powerless than we dare to admit, writes Benedict Brogan.

3. Growth will not decide the next election (Financial Times)

A strong economy at the next UK election could harm the Conservatives, says Janan Ganesh.

4. Ed Miliband doesn’t sound like the next PM (Times)

Two years ago just 23% thought he would be the best qualified, writes Peter Kellner. Now it’s risen to a mighty 24%.

5. What links the MMR scare and austerity? (Guardian)

Both sagas have their roots in dodgy academic papers, the agenda-pushing press and politicians – and willing believers, writes Aditya Chakrabortty.

6. Some missionary zeal at last, thanks to IDS (Times)

This week’s benefit reform shows what ministers can do if they are willing to face down Whitehall’s mandarins, says Rachel Sylvester.

7. However Ukip fares in this week's elections, the politics of protest can only take you so far (Independent)

The party remains far clearer about what it stands against than what it stands for, writes Donald Macintyre.

8. Confront UKIP with proper Tory policies (Daily Mail)

Re-introducing grammar schools, reclaiming control of Britain’s borders and ending abuse of human rights should be core Tory positions, says a Daily Mail editorial. 

9. Syria undermines Obama's strategy (Financial Times)

The president’s aim is to pivot to Asia rather than the Middle East, writes Gideon Rachman.

10. France shows us how to deal with jihadis (Daily Telegraph)

Why are our Gallic neighbours so much better at deporting terrorist suspects, asks Philip Johnston.

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.